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Title: Little Nobody
Author: Miller, Mrs. Alex. McVeigh
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Little Nobody" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



of the Digital Library@Villanova University
(http://digital.library.villanova.edu/))



  LITTLE NOBODY

  BY

  MRS. ALEX. MCVEIGH MILLER

  HART SERIES No. 53

  COPYRIGHT 1886 BY GEORGE MUNRO.

  PUBLISHED BY

  THE ARTHUR WESTBROOK COMPANY

  CLEVELAND, O., U. S. A.



LITTLE NOBODY.



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER I.
  CHAPTER II.
  CHAPTER III.
  CHAPTER IV.
  CHAPTER V.
  CHAPTER VI.
  CHAPTER VII.
  CHAPTER VIII.
  CHAPTER IX.
  CHAPTER X.
  CHAPTER XI.
  CHAPTER XII.
  CHAPTER XIII.
  CHAPTER XIV.
  CHAPTER XV.
  CHAPTER XVI.
  CHAPTER XVII.
  CHAPTER XVIII.
  CHAPTER XIX.
  CHAPTER XX.
  CHAPTER XXI.
  CHAPTER XXII.
  CHAPTER XXIII.
  CHAPTER XXIV.
  CHAPTER XXV.
  CHAPTER XXVI.
  CHAPTER XXVII.
  CHAPTER XXVIII.
  CHAPTER XXIX.
  CHAPTER XXX.
  CHAPTER XXXI.
  CHAPTER XXXII.
  CHAPTER XXXIII.
  CHAPTER XXXIV.
  CHAPTER XXXV.
  CHAPTER XXXVI.
  CHAPTER XXXVII.
  CHAPTER XXXVIII.
  CHAPTER XXXIX.
  CHAPTER XL.
  CHAPTER XLI.
  CHAPTER XLII.
  CHAPTER XLIII.
  CHAPTER XLIV.
  CHAPTER XLV.
  CHAPTER XLVI.
  CHAPTER XLVII.
  CHAPTER XLVIII.



CHAPTER I.


He was a Northern journalist, and it was in the interest of his paper
that he found himself, one bright March morning, in New Orleans, almost
dazed by the rapidity with which he had been whirled from the ice and
snow of the frozen North to the sunshine and flowers of the sunny South.

He was charmed with the quaint and unique Crescent City. It was a
totally different world from that in which he had been reared--a summer
land, warm, indolent, luxurious, where one plucked the golden oranges
from the dark-green boughs, laden at once with flowers and fruit, and
where the senses were taken captive by the sensuous perfume of rare
flowers that, in his Northern land, grew only within the confines of
the close conservatory. Then, too, the dark, handsome faces of the
people, and their mixture of foreign tongues, had their own peculiar
charm. Nothing amused him so much as a stroll through the antique
French Market, with its lavish abundance of tropic vegetables, fruits,
and flowers, vended by hucksters of different nationalities in the
Babel of languages that charmed his ear with the languorous softness of
the Southern accent.

He had a letter of introduction to a member of the Jockey Club, and
this famous organization at once adopted him, and, as he phrased it,
"put him through." The theaters, the carnival, the races, all whirled
past in a blaze of splendor never to be forgotten; for it was at the
famous Metairie Race-course that he first met Mme. Lorraine.

But you must not think, reader, because I forgot to tell you his name
at first, that he is the Little Nobody of my story. He was not little
at all, but tall and exceedingly well-favored, and signed his name
Eliot Van Zandt.

Mme. Lorraine was a retired actress--ballet-dancer, some said. She
was a French woman, airy and charming, like the majority of her race.
The Jockey Club petted her, although they freely owned that she was a
trifle fast, and did not have the _entrée_ of some of the best houses
in the city. However, there were some nice, fashionable people not
so strait-laced who sent her cards to their fêtes, and now and then
accepted return invitations, so that it could not be said that she was
outside the pale of society.

Mme. Lorraine took a fancy to the good-looking Yankee, as she dubbed
him, and gave him _carte blanche_ to call at her _bijou_ house in
Esplanade Street. He accepted with outward eagerness and inward
indifference. He was too familiar with women of her type at the
North--fast, frivolous, and avaricious--to be flattered by her notice
or her invitation.

"She may do for the rich Jockey Club, but her acquaintance is too
expensive a luxury for a poor devil of a newspaper correspondent," he
told the Club. "She has card-parties, of course, and I am too poor to
gamble."

Pierre Carmontelle laughed, and told him to call in the afternoon, when
there was no gambling in the _recherché_ saloon.

"To see madame at home, informally, with her little savage, would be
rich, _mon ami_. You would get a spicy paragraph for your newspaper,"
he said.

"Her little savage?"

"Do not ask me any questions, for I shall not answer," said
Carmontelle, still laughing. "Perhaps Remond there will gratify your
curiosity. The little vixen flung her tiny slipper into his face once
when he tried to kiss her, under the influence of a _soupçon_ too much
of madame's foamy champagne."

"Madame's daughter, perhaps?" said Van Zandt, looking at Remond; but
the latter only scowled and muttered, under his breath:

"The little demon!"

He thought they were guying him, and decided not to call in Esplanade
Street.

But it was only one week later that he saw Mme. Lorraine again at
Metairie. Her carriage was surrounded by admirers, and she was betting
furiously on the racing, but she found time to see the Yankee and
beckon him importunately with her dainty, tan-kidded hand.

They made way for him to come to her where she sat among her silken
cushions, resplendent in old-gold satin, black lace, and Maréchal Niel
roses, her beautiful, brilliant face wreathed in smiles, her toilet so
perfectly appointed that she looked barely twenty-five, although the
Club admitted that she must be past forty.

"It is fifteen years since Lorraine married her off the stage, and
she had been starring it ten years before he ever saw her," said
Carmontelle, confidentially.

The big, almond-shaped dark eyes flashed reproachfully, as she said,
with her prettiest _moue_:

"You naughty Yankee, you have not called!"

"I have been too busy," he fibbed; "but I am coming this evening."

"_Quel plaisir_!" she exclaimed, and then the racing distracted their
attention again.

The blaze of sunshine fell on one of the gayest scenes ever witnessed.
The old race-course was surrounded by thousands upon thousands of
people in carriages, on horseback, and afoot. The grand stand was
packed with a living mass.

The tropical beauty and rich costumes of the Louisiana ladies lent glow
and brilliancy to the exciting scene. The racing was superb, and men
and women were betting freely on their favorites. Gloves and jewels and
thousands of dollars were won and lost that day.

The most interesting event of the day was on. A purse of gold had been
offered for the most skillful and daring equestrienne, and the fair
contestants were ranged before the judge's stand, magnificently mounted
on blooded steeds curveting with impatient ardor, their silver-mounted
trappings glistening in the sunlight, and their handsome riders clothed
faultlessly in habits of dark rich cloth fitting like a glove. It was
truly a splendid sight, and the Jockey Club immediately went wild,
and cheered as if they would split their throats. Even Mme. Lorraine
brought her gloved hands impetuously together as the five beauties rode
dauntlessly forward.

"Jove! how magnificent!" Carmontelle burst forth. "But, madame, look!"
excitedly. "Who is that little tot on the Arab so like your own?
Heavens! it is--it is--" Without completing the sentence, he fell back
convulsed with laughter.

Every one was looking eagerly at the slip of a girl on the back of the
beautiful, shiny-coated Arab. She rode skillfully, with daring grace,
yet reckless _abandon_--a girl, a child almost, the lissom, budding
figure sitting erect and motionless in the saddle, a stream of ruddy
golden hair flying behind her on the breeze, the small, white face
staring straight before her as she swept on impetuously to the victory
that every one was proclaiming would perch upon her banner.

Mme. Lorraine's face paled with blended dismay and anger. She muttered,
loud enough for the Yankee to overhear:

"_Mon Dieu_! the daring little hussy! She shall pay for this escapade!"

But to her admirers she exclaimed, a moment later, with a careless,
significant shrug of the shoulders:

"She has stolen a march upon me. But, pshaw! it is nothing for her, the
little savage! You should have seen her mother, the bare-back rider,
galloping at her highest speed and jumping through the hoops in the
ring!"

"_Vive_ the little savage!" cried Remond, his dark face relaxing into
enthusiasm. "She has stolen a march upon you, indeed, madame, has she
not?"

Madame frowned and retorted, sharply:

"Yes, monsieur; but I will make her pay for this! The idea of her
racing my Arab, my splendid Arab, that I care for so guardedly! Why,
one of his slender hoofs is worth more to me than the girl's whole
body! Oh, yes, I will make her pay!"

The journalist's dancing gray eyes turned on her face curiously.

"She belongs to you?"

"In a way, yes," madame answered, with a sharp, unpleasant laugh. "Her
mother, my maid, had the bad taste to die in my employ and leave the
baggage on my hands. She has grown up in my house like an unchecked
weed, and has furnished some amusement for the Jockey Club."

"As a sort of Daughter of the Regiment," said one, laughing; but madame
frowned the more darkly.

"Nonsense, Markham," she said, shortly. "Do not put such notions into
Monsieur Van Zandt's head. Let him understand, once for all, she is a
cipher, a little nobody."

She did not quite understand the gleam in the dark-gray eyes, but he
smiled carelessly enough, and replied:

"At least she is very brave."

"A madcap," madame answered, shortly; and just then a shriek of triumph
from a thousand throats rent the air. The meteor-like figure of the
golden-haired girl on the flying Arab had distanced every competitor,
and the applause was tremendous. In the midst of it all she reined
in her gallant steed a moment before the judges' stand, then, before
the dust cleared away, she was galloping rapidly off the grounds,
followed by every eye among them all; while Mme. Lorraine, beneath an
indifferent air, concealed a hidden volcano of wrath and passion.

She stayed for the rest of the races, but her mind was only half upon
them now, and she made some wild bets, and lost every stake. She could
think of nothing but the daring girl who had taken her own Selim, her
costly, petted Arab, and ridden him before her eyes in that wild race
in which she had won such a signal victory.



CHAPTER II.


Van Zandt determined to keep his promise to call in Esplanade Street
that evening. He felt a languid curiosity over Mme. Lorraine's charge,
the daring girl whose whole young body was worth less to madame than
one of the slender hoofs of her favorite Selim.

He arrived early, and was ushered into an exquisite little salon all in
olive and gold--fit setting for madame's ripe, dusky beauty. She was
alone, looking magnificent in ruby velvet with cream lace garnishing
and ruby jewelry, and the smile with which she received him was welcome
itself.

"Ah, _mon ami_! I was wondering if you would really come," she said,
archly. "Sit here beside me, and tell me how you enjoyed the day?"

She swept aside her glowing draperies, and gave him a seat by her
side on the olive satin sofa. He accepted it with an odd sensation of
disappointment, despite her luring beauty and the sensuous comfort and
luxury of the room, whose air was heavy with the perfume of flowers in
vases and pots all about them.

He thought, disappointedly:

"Am I not to see her Little Nobody?"

Apparently not, for no one entered, and madame sat contentedly by his
side, talking arch nothings to him, fluttering her fan coquettishly,
and laughing at his careless repartee. Not a word all the while of her
whom madame had sworn should pay for her madcap freak of to-day.

By and by came Carmontelle, Remond, and Markham. They laughed at
finding Van Zandt before them.

"But, madame, where is your Little Nobody?" queried the gay
Carmontelle. "We are come to lay our hearts at her feet. Know that she
has supplanted you in the adoration of the Jockey Club. Her victory
to-day makes us all her slaves."

Madame gave utterance to a light, mocking laugh as she touched the
gilded bell-cord close to her hand, and all eyes turned to the door.
Five, almost ten, minutes passed, then it was softly opened, and a girl
came in with a silver salver heaped high with luscious tropical fruit.

Van Zandt recognized her as the winner of the race by the wealth of
tawny golden hair that flowed down her back below her slim, girlish
waist. He waited, with his eyes on the strange young face, for madame
to speak some words of introduction, but none came. Just as any other
servant might have entered, so was this girl permitted to enter. The
fellows from the Jockey Club nodded familiarly at her, and received
a sulky stare in return as she dispensed her fruit among them with
impatient courtesy.

When she paused, last of all, before Mme. Lorraine, with her salver of
fruit, she seemed first to observe the tall, fair man by her side. She
started and fixed her big, solemn, dark eyes half wonderingly upon him,
and for a second they gazed silently and curiously at each other.

He saw a girl of fifteen or so, very _petite_ for her age, and made to
look more so by the fashion of her dress, which consisted mainly of
a loosely fashioned white embroidered slip, low in the neck, short in
the sleeves, and so short in the skirt that it reached the verge of
immodesty by betraying much more than the conventional limit of the
tapering ankles and rounded limbs. Madame had evidently aimed more
at picturesqueness than propriety in choosing her dress, and she had
certainly attained her point. Anything more full of unstudied grace and
unconscious beauty than the little serving-maid it would be hard to
imagine. The contrast of tawny golden hair with dark eyes and slender,
jetty brows, with features molded in the most bewitching lines, and
form as perfect as a sculptor's model, made up a _tout ensemble_ very
pleasing to the journalist's observant eyes. There was but one defect,
and that was a certain sullenness of eyes and expression that bespoke a
fiery spirit at bay, a nature full of repressed fire and passion ready
to burst into lava-flame at a touch, a word.

For her she saw a man of twenty-five or six, tall, manly, and handsome
in a splendid intellectual fashion, with fair hair clustered above a
grand white brow, blue-gray eyes bright and laughing, a fair mustache
ornamenting lips at once firm and sweet, a chin that was grave and full
of power in spite of the womanish dimple that cleft it--altogether a
most attractive face, and one that influenced her subtly, for some
of the sullenness faded from her face, and with brightening eyes she
exclaimed, with all the freedom of a child:

"Oh, I know you at sight! You are madame's handsome Yankee, _n'est ce
pas_?"

He rose, laughing, and with his most elaborate bow.

"Eliot Van Zandt, at your service," he said. "Yes, I am the Yankee. And
you?"

He saw the sullen gleam come back into her eyes, as she answered
curtly, and, as it seemed, with repressed wrath:

"Oh. I am Little Nobody, madame says. I have always been too poor to
have even a name. Have some fruit, please."

Madame tittered behind her elaborate fan, and the members of the Jockey
Club exchanged glances. Eliot took an orange mechanically, and then the
girl put the salver down and turned to go.

But Mme. Lorraine's dark eyes looked over the top of her fan with
sarcastic amusement.

"Remain," she said, with cold brevity; and the girl flung herself
angrily down into a chair, with her hands crossed and her tiny slippers
dangling. With uplifted eyes she studied intently the face of the
stranger.

"Handsome, is he, madcap?" at length queried Carmontelle, full of
amusement.

The large eyes turned on his face scornfully.

"Handsomer than any of the ugly old Jockey Club!" she replied, with
decision.

"We shall all be very jealous of this Yankee," said Markham. "Here we
have been adoring you ever since you were a baby, ma'amselle, and you
throw us over in a bunch for the sake of this charming stranger. You
are cruel, unjust." He began to hum, softly, meaningly:

    "'Do not trust him, gentle lady,
        Though his words be low and sweet;
      Heed not him that kneels before thee,
        Gently pleading at thy feet.'"

The song went no further, for the girl looked at him with large eyes of
sarcastic amusement and said, curtly:

"If I had such an atrocious voice as yours, I should not try to sing."

A sally of laughter greeted the words, and the sulky countenance
relaxed into a smile.

Van Zandt studied the young face closely, his artistic taste charmed by
its bright, warm beauty, full of Southern fire and passion.

"How came she, the nameless child of a circus-rider, by her dower of
high-bred, faultless beauty?" he thought, in wonder, noticing the
dainty white hands, the

                    "Delicate Arab arch of her feet,
    And the grace that, light and bright as the crest
    Of a peacock, sits on her shining head;
    And she knows it not. Oh, if she knew it!
    To know her beauty might half undo it."

Mme. Lorraine, at his side, watched him with lowered lids and
compressed lips. At last, tapping his arm with her fan, and smiling
archly, she said, in an under-tone:

"Beautiful, is she not, _mon ami_? But--that is all. Her mind is a
void, a blank--capable of nothing but the emotions of anger or hatred,
the same as the brute creation. I have tried to educate her into a
companion, but in vain; so she can never be more than a pretty toy to
me--no more nor less than my Maltese kitten or my Spitz puppy, although
I like to see her about me, the same as I love all beautiful things."

He heard her in amazement. Soulless--that beautiful, spirited-looking
creature! Could it be? He saw the dark eyes lighten as the men began
to praise her dauntless riding that day. They were very expressive,
those large, almond-shaped eyes. Surely a soul dwelt behind those
dark-fringed lids.

Some one proposed cards, and madame assented with alacrity, without
seeing Eliot Van Zandt's gesture of disgust. He refused point-blank to
take a hand in the game, and said, with reckless audacity:

"Do not mind me; I am always unlucky at play; so I will amuse myself
instead with Little Nobody."

Her eyes flashed, but when Mme. Lorraine vacated the seat upon
the sofa, she came over and took it, not with any appearance of
forwardness, but as a simple matter of course. Then, looking up at him,
she said, with child-like directness:

"And so you are a Yankee? I am surprised. I have always hated the
Yankees, you know. My father was a Confederate soldier, madame says. He
was killed the last year of the war, just a month before I was born."

Mme. Lorraine looked around with a dark frown, but Van Zandt pretended
not to see it as he answered:

"Do you mean that you will not have me for your friend, ma'amselle,
because I was born in Boston, and because my father fell fighting for
the Stars and Stripes?"

"A friend? What is that, monsieur?" she queried, naïvely; and Markham,
to whom the conversation was perfectly audible from his corner of the
card-table, looked around, and said, teasingly:

"It is something that you will never be able to keep, ma'amselle, by
reason of your pretty face. All your friends will become your lovers."

"Hold your tongue, Colonel Markham; I was not talking to you, and it's
ill manners to break into a conversation," said the girl, shortly.

She broke off a white camellia from a vase near her, and held it
lightly between her taper fingers as she again addressed herself to the
journalist:

"I like your word 'friend.' It has a nice sound. But I don't quite
understand."

"I must try to explain it to you," he replied, smiling. "I may tell
you, since Markham has broached the subject, that the poets have said
that friendship is love in disguise, but the dictionary gives it a more
prosaic meaning. Let us find it as it is in Webster."

"Webster?" stammeringly, and Mme. Lorraine looked around with her
disagreeably sarcastic laugh.

"Monsieur Van Zandt, you bewilder my little savage. She can not read."

But a light of comprehension flashed instantly into the puzzled eyes.
She pulled Eliot's sleeve.

"You mean books. Come, you will find plenty in the library."

He followed her into the pretty room beyond the olive satin _portière_,
where they found plenty of books indeed. She pointed to them, and
looked at him helplessly.

He found Webster on the top shelf of a rich inlaid book-case, and was
half-stifled with dust as he drew it down from the spot where it had
rested undisturbed for years. He sneezed vigorously, and his companion
hastened to dust it off with her tiny handkerchief.

"Now!" she said, anxiously, spreading the big book open on a table
before him.



CHAPTER III.


The leaves fluttered with her hasty movement, and a folded sheet of
parchment fell out upon the floor. As he turned the pages to the F's
she picked up the paper and held it in her hands, looking curiously at
the bold, clear superscription on the back, and the big red seal; but
it told nothing to her uneducated eyes, and with an unconscious sigh,
she pushed it back into the dictionary, her hand touching his in the
movement and sending an odd thrill of pleasure along his nerves.

He read aloud, in his clear, full tones:

  "'FRIEND.--One who, entertaining for another sentiments of esteem,
  respect, and affection, from personal predilection, seeks his society
  and welfare; a well-wisher, an intimate associate.'"

She stood by him, her hands resting on the table, trembling with
pleasure, her face glowing.

"It is beautiful," she exclaimed. "I thought the word sounded very
sweet. And--you--you want to be my friend?"

The most finished coquette might have envied the artless naïveté of her
look and tone, yet she was

    "Too innocent for coquetry,
     Too fond for idle scorning."

Touched by this new side of her character, he put his hand impulsively
on the little one resting close by his on the table with a gentle
pressure.

"Child, I will be your friend if you will let me," he said, in a gentle
tone, and not dreaming of all to which that promise was swiftly leading.

"I shall be so glad," she said, in a voice so humble, and with so
tender a face, that the people in the other room would scarce have
recognized her as the little savage and vixen they called her.

But Pierre Carmontelle, always full of mischief and banter, had
deliberately sauntered in, and heard the compact of friendship between
the two who, until to-night, had been utter strangers. He gave his
friend a quizzical smile.

"Ever heard of Moore's 'Temple to Friendship,' Van Zandt?" he inquired,
dryly. "Let me recall it to your mind."

He brought a book from a stand near by, opened it, and read aloud, with
dry significance, in his clear voice:

    "'A Temple to Friendship,' said Laura, enchanted,
        'I'll build in this garden--the thought is divine!'
      Her temple was built, and she now only wanted
        An image of Friendship to place on the shrine.
      She flew to a sculptor who sat down before her
        A Friendship the fairest his art could invent;
      But so cold and so dull that the youthful adorer
        Saw plainly this was not the idol she meant.

    "'Oh, never!' she cried, 'could I think of enshrining
        An image whose looks are so joyless and dim;
      But you, little god, upon roses reclining,
        We'll make, if you please sir, a Friendship of him.'
      So the bargain was struck; with the little god laden,
        She joyfully flew to her shrine in the grove;
     'Farewell,' said the sculptor, 'you're not the first maiden
        Who came but for Friendship and took away Love!'"

He shut the book and laughed, for he had the satisfaction of seeing a
warm flush mount to the temples of the young journalist, but the girl,
so young, so ignorant, so strangely beautiful, looked at him unabashed.
Evidently she knew no more of love than she did of friendship.
They were alike meaningless terms to her uncultured mind. Frowning
impatiently, she said:

"Carmontelle, why did you intrude upon us here? I wanted to talk to
Monsieur Van Zandt."

"And I, ma'amselle, wanted to talk to you. Madame Lorraine was very
angry with you for racing Selim to-day. What did she do to you?"

The large eyes brightened angrily, and a hot rose-flush broke through
the creamy pallor of her oval cheek.

"Beat me!" she said, bitterly.

"No!" from both men in a shocked tone.

"But yes," she replied, with a sudden return of sullenness. With a
swift movement she drew the mass of hair from her white shoulders,
which she pushed up out of her low dress with a childish movement.

"Look at the marks on my back," she said.

They did look, and shuddered at the sight. The thick tresses of hair
had hidden the long, livid marks of a cruel lash on the white flesh.
There were a dozen or so of stripes, and the flesh was cut in some
places till the blood had oozed through.

The girl's eyes flashed, and she clinched her little hands tightly.

"I hate that woman!" she muttered, fiercely. "Oh, it is cruel, cruel,
to be nobody, to have no one but her, to be nothing but a pretty
plaything, as she calls me, like her Spitz and her cat, her parrot and
monkey! I mean to run away. It was for that I rode to-day--to win the
gold--but--"

"But--what?" said Van Zandt, huskily.

She answered with passionate pride:

"When she beat me--when she flung my poverty in my face--when she said
I should be starving but for her bread--I flung the purse of gold down
at her feet--to--to--pay!"

The hard glitter of the dark eyes dissolved in quick tears. She dropped
the golden tresses back on her lacerated shoulders, flung her arms
before her face, and hard, choking sobs shook the slight, young form.
The two men gazed on her, pale, moved, speechless.

Eliot Van Zandt thought of his fair, young sisters, scarcely older
than this girl, on whose lovely frames the winds of heaven were scarce
permitted to blow roughly. Why, if any one had struck Maud or Edith
such a blow, he should have sent a bullet through his heart, so fierce
would be his anger.

He looked at Carmontelle.

"Monsieur Lorraine--does he permit this?" he asked, indignantly.

"Lorraine had been in a mad-house fourteen years--sent there by the
madness of jealousy," was the unexpected reply.

Madame's gay, shrill laugh rang out from the salon where she was
winning golden eagles from her friends. The journalist shuddered and
wondered if the brilliant woman ever remembered the man gone insane for
her sake.

Ma'amselle's hard, bitter sobs ceased suddenly as they had begun. She
dashed the tears from her eyes, and said, with bitter resignation:

"_N'importe_! It is not the first time--perhaps it may not be the
last. But, _mon Dieu_, it is better to be only her plaything, petted
one moment, whipped the next, as she does her mischievous monkey and
snarling puppy. She says she should make me live in the kitchen if I
were ugly instead of being so pretty. She wants everything about her to
be pretty. But, say nothing of all this, you two," lifting a warning
taper finger. "It could do no good--she would only beat me more."

"Too true!" assented Pierre Carmontelle, sadly.



CHAPTER IV.


They returned to the salon, and Mme. Lorraine flung down her cards and
arose.

"Messieurs, I will give you your revenge another time. Now I must give
some attention to my Northern friend. Come, Monsieur Van Zandt, let me
show you my garden by moonlight."

She slipped her hand through his arm and led him through a side-door
and out into a tropical garden bathed in a full flood of summer
moonlight. Carmontelle drew Little Nobody out by the hand. Markham and
Remond followed.

To Van Zandt's unaccustomed eyes the scene was full of weird, delicious
splendor. Fountains sparkled in the moonlight, watering the stems
of tall, graceful palm-trees and massive live-oaks, whose gigantic
branches were draped in wide, trailing banners of funereal-gray moss.
Immense green ferns bordered the basins of the fountains, white lilies
nodded on tall, leafy stems, roses vied with orange-blossoms in filling
the air with fragrance, and passion-flowers climbed tall trellies and
flung their large flowers lavishly to the breeze. Madame, with her
jeweled hand clinging to Van Zandt's arm, her jewels gleaming, walked
along the graveled paths in advance of the rest, talking to him in her
gay fashion that was odd and enchanting from its pretty mixture of
broken French and English, interlarded here and there with a Spanish
phrase. She was bent on subduing the heart of the young journalist,
his coldness and indifference having roused her to a fatal pique and
interest--fatal because her love was like the poisonous upas-tree,
blighting all that it touched.

She had brought him out here for a purpose. In the soft, delusive
moonlight she looked fair and young as a woman of twenty, and here
she could weave her Circean spells the best. She became soft and
sentimental with her light badinage. Bits of poetry flowed over the
crimson lips, the dark eyes were raised to his often, coyly and
sweetly, the jeweled hand slipped until her throbbing wrist rested
lightly on his. Every gracious, cunning art of coquetry was employed,
and the victim seemed very willing indeed to be won.

But when they bantered him next day he laughed with the rest.

"_Ad nauseam_!" he replied, boldly.

       *       *       *       *       *

But he went again that night to Esplanade Street, drawn by an
indefinable power to the presence of the cruel, beautiful woman and her
fawn-like, lovely dependent.

"Madame Lorraine was engaged, but she would come to him soon," said the
sleek page who admitted him to the salon, which a quick glance showed
him was quite deserted.

He waited awhile, then grew weary of the stillness and silence, and
went out through the open side-door into the charming garden.

The quiet walks gave back no echo of his firm tread as he paused and
threw himself upon a rustic bench beside a tinkling fountain, but
presently from beyond the great live-oak with its gray moss drapery
there came to him the sound of a clear, sweet voice.

"The little ma'amselle," he thought, at first, and deemed it no harm to
listen.

"It is a bargain, then, monsieur. You take the girl, and I am a
thousand dollars richer. _Ciel_! but what a rare revenge I shall have
for yesterday;" and Mme. Lorraine's low laugh, not sweet and coquettish
now, but full of cruel venom, rang out on the evening air.

The night was warm, but Eliot Van Zandt shuddered through all his
strong, proud frame, as the voice of Remond answered:

"Revenge--ha! ha! Mine shall be gained, too. How I hate and love the
little savage in one breath, and I have sworn she shall pay for that
slipper flung in my face. It is a costly price, but to gratify love and
hate alike I will not stop at the cost."

"You are right. Once I refused when you asked for her because I prized
my pretty, innocent, ignorant toy. But yesterday the fires of hell were
kindled in my breast. She is no longer a child. When she rode Selim
there amid the plaudits of thousands, she became my rival, hated and
dreaded, and I swore she should pay for her triumph at bitter cost.
Last night did you see her with Van Zandt, her sly coquetry, her open
preference? In her sleep, as she lay coiled on her cot, she murmured
his name and smiled. It was enough. I swore I would hesitate no longer.
I would give you your will."

Rooted to his seat with horror, Van Zandt sat speechless, his blood
curdling at Remond's demoniac laugh.

"You have a _penchant_ for the quill-driver?" scoffingly said the
Frenchman.

"He is a new sensation. His indifference piques me to conquer
him"--carelessly; "but to the point. I will drug her to sleep to-night,
and you shall carry her off. Bring a carriage at midnight--all shall be
ready."

"Done! But when they ask for her--for the Jockey Club has gone wild
with admiration over the little vixen--what can you say?"

"I overheard her last night threatening to run away. She was in the
library with Carmontelle and the Yankee. What more easy than to say she
has carried out her threat?"

Their low, jubilant laughter echoed in the young journalist's ear
like the mirth of fiends. There was a promise of money that night,
injunctions of caution and secrecy; then the conspirators swept away
toward the house, and Van Zandt remained there, in the shadowy night,
unseen, unsuspected, brooding over what he had heard uttered behind the
drooping veil of long, gray moss.

Carmontelle had said, laughingly, that a visit to madame and her little
savage would furnish a spicy paragraph for his paper. He thought,
grimly, that here was the item with a vengeance.

Oh! to think of that heartless woman and man, and of the simple,
ignorant, lovely child bartered to shame for the sake of a fiendish
revenge! The blood in his veins ran hotly, as if turned to fire.

"My God! I must do something," he muttered, and then started with a
stifled cry of alarm.

From among the shrubberies close by something had started up with a
sobbing cry. It ran toward him, and fell down at his feet; it was poor
Little Nobody.

"You have heard? I saw you when you came!" she gasped, wildly.

"Yes, poor child!" he answered.

"Sold! sold, like a slave, to the man I hate!" she cried, fearfully,
her dark eyes distended in terror. "Oh, monsieur, he kissed me once,
and I hated his kiss worse than madame's blow. I flung my slipper in
his face, and he swore revenge. Once in his power, he would murder me.
Oh, you promised to be my friend"--wildly--"save me! save me now!"



CHAPTER V.


It was a strange, picturesque scene there in the starlit garden, with
its stately palms, its immense rough cactuses, its fountains, and
flowers. The man sat there with doubt, trouble, and sympathy looking
out of his frank eyes at the girl who knelt before him, her delicate,
tapering hands pressed together, her white face looking up piteously,
the tears raining from her splendid eyes, and the long veil of golden
hair sweeping loosely about her slender form, that passionate appeal
thrilling over her crimson lips:

"Save me! save me!"

"Poor child, what can I do?" he uttered, almost unconsciously, and she
answered, wildly:

"Only tell me where to fly for refuge! I am dazed and frightened. I
know not where to go unless to the deep, dark river, and fling myself
in. But I do not want to die. I only want to get away from this
terrible place to some happier spot! Ah! _certainement, le bon Dieu_
sent you here, monsieur, to help me, to save me!"

All her trust was in him, all her confidence. He had promised to be her
friend, and in a simplicity and innocence as complete as a child's, she
claimed his promise. Nay, more, she claimed that God had sent him to
her aid in this dark hour of distress.

His mind was a chaos of contending emotions. That he must help her he
had decided already in his mind. But how?

No answer presented itself to the vexing question. His thoughts were in
such a tumult that clear, coherent thinking was an impossibility.

A moment, and he said, gently:

"Yes, I will help you, my child. I were less than man could I let this
thing go on and make no attempt to rescue you from so dark a fate.
But--"

He paused, and she waited anxiously with her straining gaze fixed on
his troubled face.

"But," he went on slowly, "I can not see my way clear yet; I must
think, must decide. And it is not safe to remain out here longer. They
may come out here and find me at any moment. Little one, can you trust
me to go away and think it all over, and then come back to you?"

A moment of silence, then she rose and stood before him.

"Yes, yes, I will trust you," she said, gently; then, with sudden
desperation, "Should--should you not come back I will never be taken by
him. There--is--still--the--river!"

"Do not think of that," he said, quickly; "I will soon return. Trust me
wholly. Have I not promised to be your friend?"

"Yes, yes," eagerly.

She put out her hands as if to clasp his arm, then suddenly withdrew
them. Frank and child-like as she was, she was coy and shy as a fawn.
She clasped her delicate hands before her, and stood waiting.

"Now, tell me, is there not some way by which I can gain the street
without returning to the house?" said Van Zandt.

"Yes, monsieur. Follow me," said the girl, turning swiftly and going
across the garden to a small gate in the wall that opened on the street.

She turned a key in the lock and opened it wide as he came up,
thrusting shyly into his hand some dewy rosebuds she had plucked from a
vine that clambered to the top of the wall.

"Do not fail me, _mon ami_," she breathed, softly.

"You can trust me," he said, again. "Now go back to the garden or the
house. Be as natural as you can. Do not let them suspect your dangerous
knowledge."

She nodded her bright head wisely, and the next moment he was out
in the street, the gate shut against him, alone with the thronging
thoughts awakened by the occurrences of the last hour. He pulled a
cigar from his breast-pocket, lighted it, and walked slowly along the
wide and almost deserted street, under the shade of the tall trees that
bordered the walk, his calmness gradually returning under the influence
of the narcotic weed.

Within the flowery garden the little ma'amselle, so strangely lovely,
so ignorant and innocent, with that deadly peril menacing her young
life, flung herself down upon a garden-seat and gave herself up to
impatient waiting for the return of her knight, her brave Sir Galahad.

    "How sweet are looks that ladies bend
       On whom their favors fall;
     For them I battle to the end
       To save from shame and thrall."



CHAPTER VI.


Van Zandt had gone but a few squares, with his eyes cast down and his
mind very busy, before he stumbled up against a man coming from an
opposite direction. Both being tall and strong, they recoiled with some
force from the shock, each muttering confused apologies.

But the next moment there was an exclamation:

"Van Zandt, upon my word!" cried the musical voice of Pierre
Carmontelle. "Why, man, what the deuce ails you, to go butting up
against a fellow in that striking fashion?"

"Carmontelle!"

"Yes--or, at least, what is left of him after your villainous assault.
Where were your eyes, _mon ami_, that you run up against a fellow so
recklessly? And where have you been, anyway--to madame's?"

Eliot Van Zandt laughed at his friend's droll raillery.

"Yes, I have just come from Madame Lorraine's," he said. "And I came
away in a brown study, which accounts for my not seeing you. And
you--you were on your way there?"

"Yes."

The word was spoken in a strange voice, and an odd little laugh
followed it. Then the big, handsome Louisianian suddenly took hold of
Van Zandt's arm, and said:

"Come, I have a great mind to make a confidant of you. Let us go and
sit down yonder in the square, and smoke."

When they were seated, and puffing away at their cigars, he began:

"The fact is, I was in a brown study, too, Van Zandt, or I should
not have run against you. I was going to Madame Lorraine's, and I
found myself thinking soberly, seriously about the beautiful madame's
wretched little slave and foot-ball, the Little Nobody you saw there
last night."

"Yes," Van Zandt answered, with a quick start.

"By Heaven! it is a shame that the poor, pretty little vixen has no
friends to rescue her from her tormentor!" exclaimed Carmontelle,
vehemently. "For years this cruelty has been going on, and the girl,
with her immortal soul, has been made a puppet by that charming,
heartless woman. Would you believe it, the girl has never been given
even the rudiments of an education? She is ignorant as a little
savage, with not even a name. Yet I have seen this go on for years, in
my careless fashion, without an effort to help the child. I can not
understand what has roused me from my apathy, what has made me think of
her at last--ah, _mon Dieu_!"

This exclamation was called forth by some sudden inward light. He went
on, with a half-shamed laugh:

"What a speech I have made you, although I do not usually preach. Van
Zandt, am I getting good, do you think, or--have I fallen in love with
that Little Nobody?"

There was a minute's pause, and Eliot Van Zandt took the cigar from
between his lips, and answered, quietly:

"In love, decidedly."

"_Parbleu_!"

After that hurried exclamation there was a moment's silence.
Carmontelle broke it with an uneasy laugh.

"I am forty years old, but I suppose a man is never too old to make
a fool of himself," he said. "I believe you are right, _mon ami_. I
could not get the child out of my head last night. I never noticed how
pretty she was before; and those lashes on her sweet, white shoulders.
I longed to kiss them, as children say, to make them well."

"Poor child!" said Van Zandt; and then, without preamble, he blurted
out the story of what had just happened.

Carmontelle listened with clinched hands and flashing eyes, the veins
standing out on his forehead like whip-cords.

"The fiend!" he muttered. "_Peste_! he was always a sneak, always a
villain at heart. More than once we have wished him well out of the
club. Now he shall be lashed from the door, the double-dyed scoundrel!
And she, the deceitful madame, she could plan this horrid deed! She is
less than woman. She shall suffer, mark you, for her sin."

"But the little ma'amselle, Carmontelle? What shall we do to deliver
her from her peril? Every passing moment brings her doom nearer, yet I
can think of nothing. My brain seems dull and dazed."

"Do? Why, we shall take a carriage and bring her away 'over the garden
wall,'" replied Carmontelle, lightly but emphatically.

"Very well; but--next?"

Carmontelle stared and repeated, in some bewilderment:

"Next?"

Eliot Van Zandt explained:

"I mean, what shall we do when we have brought her away? Where shall
we find her a refuge and hiding-place from her treacherous enemies?"
anxiously.

"You cold-blooded, long-headed Yankee! I never thought of that. I
should have brought her away without thinking of the future. But you
are right. It is a question that should be decided first. What, indeed,
shall we do with the girl?"

And for a moment they looked at each other, in the starlight, almost
helplessly.

Then Van Zandt said, questioningly:

"Perhaps you have relatives or friends with whom you could place her? I
am not rich, but I could spare enough to educate this wronged child."

"I have not a relative in the world--not a friend I could trust;
nothing but oceans of money, so you may keep yours. I'll spend some of
mine in turning this little savage into a Christian."

"You will take her to school, then, right away?" Van Zandt went on, in
his quiet, pertinacious way.

"Yes; and, by Jove, when she comes out, finished, I'll marry her, Van
Zandt! I will, upon my word!"

"If she will have you," laconically.

"_Peste_! what a fellow you are, to throw cold water upon one. Perhaps
you have designs upon her yourself?"

"Not in the face of your munificent intentions," carelessly.

"Very well; I shall consider her won, then, since you are too generous
to enter the lists against me. What a magnificent beauty she will make
when she has learned her three R's!" laughingly. "But, come; shall we
not go at once to deliver our little friend from Castle Dangerous?"

They rose.

"I am glad I ran against you, Carmontelle. You have straightened out
the snarl that tangled my mind. Now for our little stratagem. You will
bring the carriage to the end of the square, while I go back to the
garden and steal the bird away."

"Excellent!" said Carmontelle. "Oh, how they will rage when they find
the bird has flown! To-morrow the club shall settle with Remond; for
madame, she shall be ostracised. We shall desert her in a body. Who
would have believed she would be so base?"

Van Zandt made no comment. He only said, as if struck by a sudden
thought:

"The poor child will have no clothes fit to wear away. Can you find
time, while getting a carriage, to buy a gray dress, a long ulster, and
a hat and veil?"

"Of course. What a fellow you are to think of things! I should not
have thought of such a thing; yet what school would have received
her in that white slip--picturesque, but not much better than a
ballet-dancer's skirts!" exclaimed the lively Southerner. "You are a
trump, Van Zandt. Can you think of anything else as sensible?"

"Some fruit and bonbons to soothe her at school--that is all," lightly,
as they parted, one to return to Mme. Lorraine's, the other to perfect
the arrangements for checkmating Remond's nefarious design.

Carmontelle was full of enthusiasm over the romantic idea that had
occurred so suddenly to his mind. A smile curled his lips, as he walked
away, thinking of dark-eyed Little Nobody, and running over in his mind
a score of feminine cognomens, with one of which he meant to endow the
nameless girl.

"Constance, Marie, Helene, Angela, Therese, Maude, Norine, Eugenie,
etc.," ran his thoughts; but Eliot Van Zandt's took a graver turn as
he went back to the starlit garden and the girl who believed him her
Heaven-sent deliverer from peril and danger.

"There is but little I can do; Carmontelle takes it all out of my
hands," he mused. "Perhaps it is better so; he is rich, free."

A sigh that surprised himself, and he walked on a little faster until
he reached the gate by which he had left the garden. Here he stopped,
tapped softly, and waited.

But there was no reply to his knock, although he rapped again.
Evidently she had gone into the house.

"I shall have to go in," he thought, shrinking from the encounter with
the wicked madame and her partner in villainy, M. Remond.

Madame was at the piano, Remond turning the leaves of her music while
she rendered a brilliant _morceau_. His hasty glance around the room
did not find the little ma'amselle.

"She will be here presently," he decided, as he returned with what
grace he could Mme. Lorraine's effusive greeting.

She was looking even lovelier than last night, in a costume of silvery
silk that looked like the shimmer of moonlight on a lake. Her white
throat rose from a mist of lace clasped by a diamond star. In her rich
puffs of dark hair nestled white Niphetos roses shedding their delicate
perfume about her as she moved with languid grace. The costume had been
chosen for him. She had a fancy that it would appeal to his sense of
beauty and purity more than her glowing robes of last night.

She was right. He started with surprise and pleasure at the dazzling
sight, but the admiration was quickly succeeded by disgust.

"So beautiful, yet so wicked!" he said, to himself.

"You were singing. Pray go on," he said, forcing her back to the piano.

It would be easier to sit and listen than to take part in the
conversation with his mind on the _qui vive_ for the entrance of
her he had come to save. He listened mechanically to the sentimental
Italian _chanson_ madame chose, but kept his eyes on the door,
expecting every minute to see a _petite_ white form enter the silken
portals.

Remond saw the watchfulness, and scowled with quick malignity.

"Other eyes than mine watch for her coming," he thought.

The song went on. The minutes waned. Van Zandt furtively consulted his
watch.

"Past ten. What if that wicked woman has already forced her to retire?"
he thought, in alarm, and the minutes dragged like leaden weights.

"Oh, if I could but slip into the garden. Perhaps she is there still,
fallen asleep like a child on the garden-seat."

Mme. Lorraine's high, sweet voice broke suddenly in upon his thoughts.

"Monsieur, you sing, I am sure. With those eyes it were useless to deny
it. You will favor us?"

He was about to refuse brusquely, when a thought came to him. She would
hear his voice, she would hasten to him, and the message of hope must
be whispered quickly ere it was too late.

He saw Remond watching him with sarcastic eyes, and said, indifferently:

"I can sing a little from a habit of helping my sisters at home. And
I belong to a glee club. If these scant recommendations please you, I
will make an effort to alarm New Orleans with my voice."

"You need not decry your talents. I am sure you will charm us," she
said; and Van Zandt dropped indolently upon the music-stool. His
long, white fingers moved softly among the keys, evoking a tender
accompaniment to one of Tennyson's sweetest love songs:

    "'Queen rose of the rosebud garden of girls,
        Come hither, the dances are done.
      In gloss of satin and glimmer of pearls,
        Queen lily and rose in one;
      Shine out, little head, sunning over with curls,
        To the flowers, and be their sun.

    "'There has fallen a splendid tear
        From the passion-flower at the gate.
      She is coming, my dove, my dear;
        She is coming, my life, my fate;
      The red rose cries, "She is near, she is near,"
        And the white rose weeps, "She is late;"
      The larkspur listens, "I hear, I hear,"
        And the lily whispers, "_I wait_."'"

The man and the woman looked at each other behind his back. Remond wore
a significant scowl; madame a jealous sneer. It faded into a smile
as he whirled around on the music-stool and faced her with a look of
feigned adoration.

"Last night was so heavenly in the garden--let us go out again," he
said, almost consumed by impatience.

Time was going fast, and it lacked little more than an hour to
midnight. He chafed at the thought that Carmontelle was waiting with
the carriage, impatient, and wondering at the strange delay.

"We will go into the garden," assented Mme. Lorraine. "Ah, you
cold-looking Yankee, you can be as sentimental as a Southerner.
Monsieur Remond, will you accompany us?"

"Pardon; I will go home. I have no fancy for love among the roses,"
with a covert sneer. "Madame, monsieur, _bon soir_."

He bowed and was gone. Van Zandt drew a long breath of dismay.

What if he should stumble upon Carmontelle and the carriage waiting at
the end of the square under cover of the night?

It was impossible to follow. Mme. Lorraine's white hand clasping his
arm, drew him out into the garden, with its sweet odors, its silence,
and dew.

His heart leaped with expectancy.

"I shall find her here asleep among the flowers, forgetful of the
dangers that encompass her young life."

He declared to Mme. Lorraine that he did not want to miss a single
beauty of the romantic old garden, and dragged her remorselessly all
over its length and breadth. Perhaps she guessed his intent, but she
made no sign. She was bright, amiable, animated, all that a woman can
be who hopes to charm a man.

He scarcely heeded her, so frantically was he looking everywhere for a
crouching white form that he could not find. There came to him suddenly
a horrified remembrance of her pathetic words:

"There is still the river!"

A bell somewhere in the distance chimed the half hour in silvery tones.
Only thirty minutes more to midnight!

With some incoherent excuse he tore himself away from her, and dashing
wildly out into the street, ran against Pierre Carmontelle for the
second time that night.

"I have waited for hours, and was just coming to seek you. What does
this mean?" he exclaimed, hoarsely.

A whispered explanation forced a smothered oath from his lips.

"Be calm. There is but one way left us. We will conceal ourselves near
the door and wrest her from them when they bring her out," said Eliot
Van Zandt.



CHAPTER VII.


But no place of concealment presented itself. The broad pavement showed
a long, unbroken space of moonlit stone, save where one tall tree
reared its stately height outside the curb-stone, and flung long,
weird shadows across the front of madame's house.

Carmontelle looked up and down the street, and shook his head.

"I can see no hiding-place but the tree," he said.

"We need none better, unless you are too stout to scale it," Van
Zandt answered, coolly, turning a questioning glance upon the rather
corpulent form of his good-looking companion.

"You will see," laughed the Southerner, softly.

He glanced up and down the street, and seeing no one in sight, made a
bound toward the tree, flung out his arms, and scaled it with admirable
agility, finding a very comfortable seat among its low-growing
branches. Van Zandt followed his example with boyish ease, and they
were soon seated close to each other on the boughs of the big tree,
almost as comfortable as if they had been lounging on the satin couches
of madame's _recherché_ salon. It was delightful up there among the
cool green leaves, with the fresh wind blowing the perfume of madame's
flowers into their faces.

"I feel like a boy again," said the journalist, gayly.

"Softly; we are opposite the windows of madame's chamber, I think,"
cautioned Carmontelle.

"She will not come up yet; she will wait in the salon for Remond. It is
but a few minutes to midnight."

A step approached, and they held their breath in excessive caution.

It passed on--only a guardian of the peace pacing his beat serenely,
his brass buttons shining in the moonlight.

Van Zandt whispered:

"I am not sure but we should have invoked the aid of the law in our
trouble."

But Pierre Carmontelle shook his head.

"The law is too slow sometimes," he said. "We will place the little
girl in some safe refuge first, then, if Madame Lorraine attempts to
make trouble, we will resort to legal measures. I am not apprehensive
of trouble on that score, however, for madame really has no legal right
to the girl. Has she not declared scores of times that her maid died,
and left the child upon her hands, and that, only for pity's sake, she
would have sent her off to an orphan asylum?"

Steps and voices came along the pavement--two roystering lads, fresh
from some festal scene, their steps unsteady with wine. They passed out
of sight noisily recounting their triumph to each other. Then the echo
of wheels in the distance, "low on the sand, loud on the stone."

"Are you armed?" whispered the Louisianian, nervously.

"No."

The cold steel of a pistol pressed his hand.

"Take that; I brought two," whispered Carmontelle. "We may need them.
One of us must stand at bay, while the other seizes and bears away the
girl."

"It shall be I. I will cover your flight," Van Zandt said, quietly.

Under his calm exterior was seething a tempest of wrath and indignation
that made him clutch the weapon in a resolute grasp. He had pure and
fair young sisters at home. The thought of them made him feel more
strongly for madame's forlorn victim.

Their hearts leaped into their throats as Remond's close carriage
dashed into sight, whirled up to madame's door, and stopped.

The door swung open, and Remond, muffled up to the ears, sprung out and
went up to the house.

Its portals opened as if by magic, with a swish of silken robes in the
hall. Madame herself had silently admitted her co-conspirator.

Most fortunately the back of the carriage was toward the tree, and the
driver's attention was concentrated upon his restive horses.

Silently as shadows the two men slid down from their novel
hiding-place, tiptoed across the pavement, and took up their grim
station on either side the closed door.

Not a moment too soon!

At that very instant the door unclosed, and Remond appeared upon the
threshold bearing in his arms a slight, inert figure wrapped in a long,
dark cloak. Madame, still in her diamonds, roses, and silvery drapery,
appeared behind him just in time to see a powerful form swoop down upon
Remond, wrest his prize from him, and make off with wonderful celerity,
considering the weight of the girlish form in his arms.

She fell back with a cry of dismay.

"_Diable_! _Spies_!"

Remond had recoiled on the instant with a fierce oath hissed in his
beard--only an instant; then he dashed forward in mad pursuit, only to
be tripped by an outstretched foot that flung him face downward on the
hard pavement.

Scrambling up in hot haste, with the blood gushing from his nostrils,
he found his way barred by Eliot Van Zandt.

"Back, villain! Your prey has escaped you!" the young man cried,
sternly.

A black and bitter oath escaped Remond, and his trembling hand sought
his belt.

He hissed savagely:

"Accursed spy! Your life shall answer for this!"

Then the long keen blade of a deadly knife flashed in the moonlight.
Simultaneously there was the flash and report of a pistol. Both men
fell at once to the ground, and at the same moment there was a swish
and rustle of silvery silk, as beautiful Mme. Lorraine retreated from
her threshold, slamming and locking her door upon the sight of the
bloodshed of which she had been the cause.

"Let them kill each other, the fools, if they have no more sense," she
muttered, scornfully, heartlessly, as she retired to her salon.

Remond's horses had been so frightened by the pistol-shot that they had
run off with their alarmed driver, who had dropped the reins in the
first moment of terror. There now remained only two of the six souls
present a moment ago, Van Zandt and Remond lying silent where they had
fallen under the cold, white light of the moonlight.

But presently the Frenchman struggled slowly up to his feet, and put
his hand to his shoulder with a stifled curse.

"The dog has put a bullet through my shoulder. Never mind, we are
quits, for I ran my knife through his heart," he muttered, hastening
away from the scene of bloodshed.

But Eliot Van Zandt lay still where he had fallen, with his ghastly
white face upturned to the sky, and the red blood pouring in a torrent
from the gaping wound in his breast.



CHAPTER VIII.


Carmontelle made his way with what speed he could, hampered as he was
by the heavy, unconscious form of the girl, to the carriage which
he had in waiting at the end of the square. His speed was not great
enough, however, to hinder him from hearing the sharp report of the
pistol as it went off in Van Zandt's hand, and a slight tremor ran
along his firm nerves.

"Somebody killed or wounded--and I pray it may be Remond, the dastardly
villain," he thought. "I should not like for any harm to come to that
noble young Van Zandt."

Then he paused while the driver sprung down from the box and opened the
door for him. He laid his burden down upon a seat, sprung in, and then
the door was closed.

"To the Convent of Le Bon Berger," he said.

"_Oui_, monsieur."

The man whipped up his horses, and they were off at a spanking pace.

A happy thought had occurred to Carmontelle. He had a friend who was
the Mother Superior of the Convent of the Good Shepherd. To her pious
care he would confide the poor, helpless lamb just rescued from the
jaws of the hungry wolf.

When the carriage had started off, he drew the thick wrappings from
the head of the unconscious girl and looked at her face. It was
deathly white, and the long, thick fringe of her dark lashes lay
heavily against her cheeks. Her young bosom heaved with slow, faint
respiration, but he tried in vain to arouse her from the heavy stupor
that held her in its chains.

Mme. Lorraine had been more clever than any one suspected. She had
given the drug to her victim in a cup of tea, before she went out to
the garden. Consequently the narcotic was already working in her veins
when she flung herself at Van Zandt's feet, imploring his aid, and in
a very few minutes after he had left her she fell into a heavy sleep
upon the garden-seat, her last coherent thought being of him who had
promised to save her from the perils that threatened her young life.

Carmontelle gazed with deep pity and strong emotion on the piquant
and exquisitely lovely face, realizing that that beauty had well-nigh
proved a fatal dower to the forlorn girl.

Deep, strong emotion stirred the man's heart as he gazed, and he vowed
to himself that however friendless, nameless, and lowly born was the
girl, she should never want a friend and protector again.

"I am rich and well-born, and she shall share all I have. When she
leaves the Convent of Le Bon Berger, it shall be as Madame Carmontelle,
my loved and honored wife, not the Little Nobody of to-night," he
mused. "I will teach her to love me in the years while she remains a
pupil at the convent."

In such thoughts as these the time passed quickly, although the convent
was several miles from Esplanade Street, and in the suburbs of the
city. At length the carriage paused before the dark conventual walls
and towers, the driver sprung down from his seat and came to the door
with the announcement:

"Le Bon Berger."

"_Très bien_. Wait."

He drew a memorandum-book from an inner pocket, and hastily penciled
some lines upon a sheet of paper.

  "MADAME LA SUPERIEURE,--Pardon this late intrusion, and for God's
  dear sake admit me to a brief interview. I have brought a poor,
  little helpless lamb to the Good Shepherd.     PIERRE CARMONTELLE."

"Take that," he said, hastily folding it across. "Ring the bell, and
present it to the janitor. Tell him Madame la Superieure must have it
at once. Say I am waiting in distress and impatience."

The man crossed the wide pave and rang the gate bell. There was some
little delay, then a stone slide slipped from its place in the high
gate, and the janitor's cross, sleepy face appeared in the aperture. He
was decidedly averse to receiving Carmontelle's orders. It was against
the rules admitting visitors at this hour. The superior had retired.

Carmontelle sprung hastily from the carriage and approached him with
a potent argument--perhaps a golden one--for he took the note and
disappeared, while the Louisianian went back to his carriage to wait
what seemed an inconceivably long space of time, restless and uneasy
in the doubts that began to assail his mind.

"If she refuses," he thought, in terror, and his senses quailed at the
thought. In all the wide city he could think of no home that would
receive his charge if the convent turned her from its doors.

"_Mon Dieu_!" he began to mutter to himself, in fierce disquietude,
when suddenly he heard the grating of a heavy key in a huge lock,
the falling of bolts and bars, and the immense gate opened gingerly,
affording a glimpse of the janitor's face and form against the
background of a garden in riotous bloom, while beyond towered the
massive convent walls.

"_Entrez_," the man said, civilly; and Carmontelle seized his still
unconscious burden joyfully, and made haste to obey.

The janitor uttered an exclamation of surprise when he saw that strange
burden, then he led the way, Carmontelle eagerly following, until they
reached the convent door. It opened as if by an unseen power, and they
went along a cold, dimly lighted hall to a little reception-room where
two gentle, pale-faced nuns were waiting with the mother superior to
receive the midnight visitor. She was a tall, graceful, sweet-faced
woman as she stood between the two, her slender white hands moving
restlessly along the beads of her rosary.

"My son," she uttered, in surprise, as he advanced and laid the still
form of Little Nobody down upon a low sofa, drawing back the heavy
cloak and showing what it hid--the fair young girl in the loose, white
slip, and the wealth of ruddy, golden curls.

He looked up at her with a face strangely broken up from its usual calm.

"Madame, holy mother, I have brought you a pupil," he said, "and I
have to confide a strange story to your keeping." He glanced at the
sweet-faced, quiet nuns. "Perhaps it were better to speak to you
alone?" he said, questioningly.

"No, you need not fear the presence of these gentle sisters of the Good
Shepherd. No secrets ever pass beyond these walls," the mother superior
answered, with grave, calm dignity.



CHAPTER IX.


Carmontelle saw the three nuns looking apprehensively at the pale,
still face of his charge, and said, reassuringly:

"Do not be alarmed. It is not death, although it looks so much like it.
The girl is only in a drugged sleep."

"But, monsieur--" began the mother superior, indignantly, when she was
interrupted by his equally indignant disclaimer:

"It is none of my work. Wait until I tell you my story."

And he immediately related it without reserve. All three listened with
eager interest.

"Now you know all," he said, at last, "and I will be perfectly frank
with you regarding my intentions. I am rich, and have none to oppose my
will. I wish to educate this unfortunate girl and make her my wife."

The superioress was gracious enough to say that it was a most laudable
intention.

"You will aid me, then? You will receive her as a pupil, train and
educate her in a manner befitting the position she will fill as my
wife?" eagerly.

"_Oui_, monsieur," she replied, instantly; and he nearly overwhelmed
her with thanks.

"I leave her in your care, then," he said, finally, as he pressed a
check for a large amount into her hand. "Now I will not intrude upon
you longer at this unseemly hour, but to-morrow I will call to see how
she fares, and to make arrangements."

He paused a minute to anxiously scan the pale, sweet, sleeping face,
and then hurried away, eager to learn how Van Zandt had fared in his
valiant effort at holding his pursuer at bay. Springing into the
carriage again, he gave the order:

"Back to Esplanade Street."

The mettlesome horses trotted off at a lively pace through the quiet,
almost deserted streets, and in a short space of time they drew up in
front of Mme. Lorraine's residence.

All was still and silent there. The front windows were closed and dark,
and the clear moonlight shone upon the bare pavement--bare, where but a
little while ago had lain the forms of the two vanquished contestants.

Carmontelle looked at the dark, silent front of the house for a moment
in doubt and indecision. He felt intuitively that behind its dark
portals was the knowledge he desired, that Mme. Lorraine could tell him
how the contest had fared after his departure.

Anxiety conquered his reluctance to arouse the household at that late
hour. He again left the carriage, and in crossing the pavement to the
door, slipped and fell in a pool of blood yet wet and warm.

Horrified, he held up his hands with the dark fluid dripping from them.

"So, then, blood has been shed!" he exclaimed, and rang a furious peal
on madame's door-bell.

"Whew! that was loud enough to wake the dead!" ejaculated the attentive
driver from his box; but apparently Mme. Lorraine was a very sound
sleeper indeed, for repeated ringings of the bell elicited no response.

In despair, Carmontelle was forced to go away, although quite satisfied
in his own mind that Mme. Lorraine had heard, but refused to respond
through malice prepense.

He drove next to Eliot Van Zandt's hotel, and met the startling
information that the young man had not been in that night.

"_Mon Dieu_! what has become of the brave lad?" he ejaculated, in
alarm; then, fiercely: "I will seek out Remond, and force the truth
from him at the point of my sword!"

Fortunately for the now wearied horses, Remond's hotel was but a few
squares further; but here he met the puzzling information that Remond
had left an hour before, having given up his rooms, and declared his
intention of not returning.

In the dim, strange light of the waning moon, Carmontelle grew
strangely pale.

"There is some mystery at the bottom of all this!" he asserted.

But, baffled on every side in his efforts after information, he
concluded to give up the quest until day; so was driven to his own
lodgings in the pale glimmer of the dawn-light that now began to break
over the quaint old city.

Weary and dispirited, with a vague presentiment of evil, he flung
himself on his bed, and a heavy stupor stole over him, binding his
faculties in a lethargic slumber from which he did not arouse until the
new day began to wax toward its meridian.



CHAPTER X.


He had given his valet no instructions to arouse him; therefore the man
let him sleep on uninterruptedly, thinking that his master had been
"making a night of it," in the slang phrase that prevails among gay
fellows. So, when he awakened and rang his bell, the midday sunshine
followed François into the quiet chamber and elicited an exclamation of
dismay.

"_Diable_! François, why did you not call me?"

"Monsieur gave me no instructions," smoothly.

"True; but you should have aroused me anyhow, you rascal!" irascibly.
"Now, hurry up, and get me out of this as quick as possible!"

His toilet completed, he swallowed a cup of coffee, munched a few
morsels of a roll, and was off--appetite failing in his eagerness to
get at Van Zandt. On his way to the hotel he dropped in at the club. No
information was found there. Neither Van Zandt nor Remond had been in
the rooms since yesterday.

He hastened on to the journalist's modest hotel, only to be confronted
with the news that Eliot had not yet returned. Since he had dined, at
eight o'clock last evening, he had not been seen by any one in the
house. His room had remained unoccupied since yesterday.

Carmontelle sickened and shuddered at thought of the blood before
madame's door last night.

"It is plain that Van Zandt was the one who was wounded, since Remond
was seen at his hotel last night after the accident. Great heavens!
what mystery is here? Is he dead, the brave lad? and have they hidden
his body to conceal the crime? I must find out the truth and avenge his
death, poor boy!"

He flung himself again into his carriage and was driven to that
beautiful fiend's--to the home of the woman who had so heartlessly
plotted the ruin of the helpless, innocent girl.

She was at home, looking cool, fair, and graceful in a _recherché_
morning-robe garnished with yards on yards of creamy laces and lavender
ribbons. She was twirling some cards in her jeweled fingers.

"Ah, monsieur, I have cards to the reception at Trevor's next week. Are
you going? Perhaps you have come to say that you will attend me there?"

The coquettish smile faded at the scowl he turned upon her face.

"Madame, where is Van Zandt?" he blurted out, brusquely.

It was no wonder she had been such a star upon the dramatic stage.
Her puzzled air, the wondering glance of her bright, dark eyes, were
perfect.

"Monsieur--Van Zandt!" she repeated, in gentle wonder. "How should I
know? I assure you he has not been here since last night."

"Yes, I know," impatiently. "But what happened to him last night? Did
Remond kill him here, at your door, where I found the pool of blood
when I came back to look for him?"

Her eyes flashed.

"Ah, then it was you, monsieur, that carried off poor Remond's bride?"
with a low laugh of amusement.

"Answer my question, if you please, Madame Lorraine," sternly. "Tell
me--did Remond kill our young Yankee friend last night?"

Madame threw back her handsome head, and laughed heartlessly.

"_Ma foi_, how can I tell? When I saw the two fools were fighting
desperately, I ran in, locked my door, and went to bed. _Mon Dieu_, I
did not want to be a witness in a murder trial!"

"And you did not peep out of the window?" cynically.

"_Ma foi_, no! I was too frightened. I did not want to see or hear! I
put my head under the bed-clothes, and went to sleep."

"Heartless woman! After you had caused all the mischief!" indignantly.

"I deny it!" cried Mme. Lorraine, artlessly, fixing her big,
reproachful eyes on his face. "I can not understand what all this
fuss is about. I did but arrange a marriage for my pretty ward,
French-fashion, with Remond, rich, in love with her, and a splendid
_parti_. But the little rebel pouted, flirted, and held him at bay till
he was wild with love and jealousy. She was romantic. I proposed that
he run off with her and win her heart by a _coup d'état_. The priest
was ready. All would have gone well but for the cursed intermeddling of
that sneaking Yankee. I hate him! What did he have to do with her that
he should break off the match? Do you say Remond has killed him?"

She had poured it all out in voluble French, protestingly, and with an
air of the completest innocence, but she met only a furious frown.

"Madame, your airs of innocence are quite thrown away," he replied.
"Your treachery is known. You would have sold that poor girl to a life
that was worse than death. Your bargain in the garden was overheard,"
sternly. "Do you know what you have brought upon your head, traitress?
Social ostracism and complete disgrace! The Jockey Club that has upheld
you by its notice so many years, will desert you in a body. We can not
horsewhip you as we shall Remond, but we shall hold you up to the scorn
of the world."

"Mercy, monsieur!" she gasped, faintly, dropped her face in her hands,
and dissolved in tears.

He had expected that she would scorn him, defy him, but this softer
mood confounded him. He could not bear a woman's tears.

He sat and watched her in silence a few minutes, fidgeting restlessly,
then said, curtly:

"Come, come, it is too late for tears unless they are tears of
repentance for your sin."

Madame flung up her hands with a tragic gesture.

"_Mon Dieu_, how cruelly I have been misunderstood! I do not deny the
plot in the garden, but the listener surely did not hear all. Remond
was to marry the girl, I swear it! Poor little motherless lamb! do you
think I would have allowed any one to harm a hair of her head? Oh, you
wrong me bitterly! You have been deceived, misled."

She flung herself with sudden, inimitable grace on her knees at his
feet.

"Carmontelle, you should know me better than this!" she cried. "I
swear to you it was only a harmless plot to make her Remond's wife.
It would have been better for her to have a home and protector, I--I
am so poor," weeping, "I have lost so heavily at play that there is
a mortgage on my home, and I could not keep the girl much longer; I
must retrench my expenses. Yet only for this I am to be ostracised,
disgraced, held up to the scorn of my friends. Ah, you are cruel,
unjust to me. Oh, spare me, spare me! Say nothing until you can prove
these charges true."

What a consummate actress! what a clever liar she was! Doubt began to
invade his mind. Had Van Zandt misunderstood her words?

"Madame Lorraine," he said, sternly, "get up from the floor and listen
to me. I will give you the benefit of a doubt. I will try to believe
that your infamous plot went no further than the trying to force that
helpless child into a hated union. Even that was infamy enough. Talk
not to me of your French marriages. I despise them. But I will say
nothing to the world--yet. I will not wrong you until I make sure."

"Bless you, noble Carmontelle!" she cried, seizing his hand and
pressing passionate kisses upon it. He drew it coldly away, and said,
dryly:

"If you really feel grateful for my clemency, tell me what you know
about Van Zandt and Remond. I can not find either one, and I fear that
something terrible has happened to the noble young Bostonian."

She swore by all the saints that she knew nothing, had heard nothing
since the pistol-shot last night.

"I was so frightened I did not wait to see who was shot. I just ran
in and went to bed. I did not want to be a witness of anything so
terrible!" she shuddered.

"You swear you are not deceiving me, madame?" sternly.

"I swear by all the saints," fervently.

"Then I must search farther for my missing friend," he said, sadly, as
he turned to go.

She caught his arm eagerly.

"Now tell me what you have done with the little baggage who has caused
all this trouble? By Heaven, Carmontelle, if harm come to my little
daughter through you, I will hold you to account!"

"Daughter!" he echoed, bewilderly, and she answered, dauntlessly:

"Yes, my daughter. The secret is out at last, the secret of my shame!
She was born before I met Lorraine. Her father was--well, no matter
who, since he was a villain. Well, I put the child out to nurse, and
made an honest marriage. Then the woman followed me with the child, and
I had to invent a story to account for her to Lorraine. Now I am free
to claim her, and you see that the law will support me in demanding her
restoration to my care!"

They stood looking at each other silently a moment, then Carmontelle
answered, angrily:

"Madame, I do not believe you. This is only one of a dozen different
stories you have told to account for the possession of that child. Your
last claim is made in order to support a claim for her return to you.
The pretext will not avail you. The little ma'amselle is in safe hands,
where she shall remain until she is trained and educated up to the
standard necessary for my wife."

"Your wife?" she gasped, white with jealous fury.

"I have said it," he answered, coldly, and strode abruptly from the
house.

Mme. Lorraine fell down for a moment on the sofa in furious hysterics.
Carmontelle, her princely adorer, had scorned, defied her; Van Zandt
knew her guilt and despised her; worst of all, the little scapegoat of
her tempers, her beautiful slave, the hated Little Nobody, had escaped
her clutches. Furies!

But suddenly she sprung up like a wild creature, tore open the door
that Carmontelle had slammed together, and rushed after him. He was
just entering his carriage when her frantic hand arrested him and drew
him forcibly back.

"Come into the house; I must speak with you further. Do not shake your
head," wildly. "It is a matter of life and death!"

He suffered her to drag him back into the salon. She turned her shining
eyes upon his face with a half-maniacal gleam in them.

"The girl--had she awakened when you saw her last?" hoarsely.

"No," he replied.

She smote her forehead fiercely with one ringed white hand.

"My soul! I do not want to have murder on my hands. You must find
Remond. I gave him the little vial with the antidote."

"The antidote?" he stammered, almost stupidly.

"Yes, the antidote. She is under the influence of a strange drug.
I bought the two vials long ago from an old hag in the East as a
curiosity, you see. One drug was to bring sleep, the other to wake at
will. Without--" she paused, and her voice broke.

"Without--" he echoed, hoarsely; and in a frightened, guilty voice, she
muttered:

"The one, without the other means--death!"

"Fiend!" he hissed, fiercely.

"No, no; do not blame me. I meant no ill. I gave Remond the antidote,
to be used when they reached the end of their journey. How could I
know you would take the girl from him and hide her? How could I know
he would disappear? Find Remond quickly, or her death will lie at your
door."

"You speak the truth?" he cried, wildly.

"Before God and the angels, monsieur!"

With a smothered oath he thrust her from him and rushed out again,
leaped into the carriage, and gave his orders:

"Like the wind, to the detective agency."

It was two miles distant, and the panting horses were covered with foam
when they set him down at his destination. Fortunately the familiar
face of the most skillful detective in New Orleans looked at him in
surprise from the pavement. He beckoned him into the vehicle.

In words as brief and comprehensive as possible he explained what he
wanted done. He must find Remond at once--find him and bring him to the
Convent of Le Bon Berger.

"A life hangs on his hands," he said, feverishly. "Tell him not to fail
to bring with him the antidote he received last night."

"I will find him if he is in the city," the detective promised,
ardently; and full of zeal, inspired not only by love for his
profession, but genuine anxiety and grief over the startling case just
confided to him, he sprung from the carriage to set about his task.

And Carmontelle, with his mind full of Little Nobody, gave the order
again:

"To the convent!"

He was possessed by the most torturing anxiety over his little charge,
and doubt over madame's startling assertion.

"Horrible! horrible! What possessed her to use a drug so deadly?" he
thought, wildly. "Oh, it can not be true! I shall find her awake and
waiting for me, the poor lamb! Madame Lorraine only invented that story
to torture me."

He spoke feverishly to the driver:

"Faster, faster!"

The man replied, in a conciliatory tone:

"Monsieur, I dare not. I should be arrested for fast driving, and your
speed would be hindered, not helped, by such a course."

He knew that it was true, and with a groan sunk back in his seat and
resigned himself with what patience he could to the moderate pace of
the horses. It seemed hours, although it was but thirty minutes, before
they drew up again before the dark, grim building where he had left his
charge the night before.

The janitor admitted him without any parley this time; but Carmontelle
was so eager that he did not notice the solemn, sympathetic look with
which the man regarded him. He rushed without delay to the presence of
the mother superior.

When she saw him, her countenance expressed the greatest dismay. She
crossed herself piously and ejaculated, sorrowfully:

"Oh, monsieur, monsieur, you have come at last!"

"Madame, holy mother!" he cried, agitatedly, and paused, unable to
proceed further. Something in her face and voice filled him with dread.

"Oh, my son!" she uttered, sorrowfully, and speech, too, seemed to fail
her. She regarded him in a pathetic silence mixed with deep pity.

He made a great effort to speak, to overcome the horror that bound
him hand and foot. A terrible fear was upon him. What if she had not
wakened yet?

With that awful thought, he gasped and spoke:

"Where is she?"

"Oh, _mon Dieu_! oh, holy Mother of Jesus, comfort him!" cried the good
nun, piously. She advanced and touched him compassionately. "God help
you, my poor son. She--she--has not awakened--yet."

He turned his pale, frightened face toward her.

"She sleeps?" he questioned, eagerly; and with a holy compassion in her
trembling voice, she replied:

"Yes, my son, she sleeps--in Jesus."

"Dead?" he almost shrieked, and she answered, solemnly:

"Yes."

She thought he was about to faint, his face grew so pale and his form
reeled so unsteadily; but he threw out one hand and caught the back of
a chair to sustain himself, while a hollow groan came from his lips:

"Too late!"

With tears in her eyes, the good nun continued:

"The little girl never awakened from the deep sleep in which you
brought her here. We made every effort to arouse her, but all in vain.
She sunk deeper and deeper into lethargy, her breathing growing fainter
and fainter, and at last it ceased altogether."

"When?" he questioned, huskily.

"Three hours ago," she replied.

If it had not been for her sacred presence, Carmontelle would have
broken into passionate execrations of the wicked woman who had caused
the death of that sweet young girl. As it was, he stood before her
dazed and silent, almost stunned by the calamities that had befallen
him since last night.

Van Zandt had mysteriously disappeared, and Little Nobody was dead. The
one, he feared and dreaded, had been murdered by Remond in his fury;
the other lay dead, the victim of Mme. Lorraine's cruel vengeance.

"Come," said the nun, breaking in on his bitter thoughts; "she lies in
the chapel. You will like to look at her, monsieur."

He followed her silently, and the low, monotonous sound of the chant
for the dead came to his ears like a knell as they went on along
the narrow hall to the darkened chapel, where the weeping nuns lay
prostrate before the altar, mumbling over the prayers for the dead,
and an old, white-haired priest in flowing robes bent over his book.
Carmontelle saw none of these. He had eyes for nothing but that
black-draped coffin before the altar, with wax-candles burning at head
and foot, shedding a pale, sepulchral light on that fair young face and
form that such a little while ago had been full of life, and health,
and vigor.

He stood like one turned to stone--speechless, breathless--gazing at
that exquisitely lovely face, so faultlessly molded, and so beautiful
even in the strange pallor of death, with the dark lashes lying so
heavily against the cheeks and the lips closed in such a strange, sweet
calm.

His heart swelled with love, and grief, and pity. Poor child! she had
had such a strange, desolate life, and she had died without a name
and without a friend, save for him who stood beside her now, his face
pale and moved, as he looked upon her lying like a broken lily in her
coffin, with the strange, weird light sifting through the stained-glass
windows on her calm face, and the monotonous chants and prayers making
a solemn murmur through the vaulted chapel.

"Is it death or heavy sleep?" he asked himself, with a sudden throb of
hope; and he touched reverently the little hands that were crossed over
a white lily the nuns had lovingly placed there. Alas! they were icy
cold! His hope fled. "Too late! too late! If they find Remond, it will
be all in vain," he muttered, and the mother superior looked at him
inquiringly.

Impulsively he told her all, and the nuns, at their prayers, murmured
aves and paters more softly, that they might listen; the old priest,
with his head bent over his book, lost not a word. It was a romance
from that wicked outer world from which the convent walls shut them
in, a breath of life and passion from the "bewildering masquerade" of
existence, where

          "Strangers walk as friends,
    And friends as strangers;
    Where whispers overheard betray false hearts,
    And through the mazes of the crowd we chase
    Some form of loveliness that smiles and beckons,
    And cheats us with fair words, only to leave us
    A mockery and a jest; maddened--confused--
    Not knowing friend from foe!"

The mother superior gazed with dilated eyes as he poured out the moving
story, clasped her long, white hands excitedly, and shuddered with
horror.

"Ah, _mon Dieu_! the wicked man! the cruel, heartless woman!" she
exclaimed. "Shall they not answer for this crime?"

"Ay, before Heaven, they shall!" Pierre Carmontelle vowed passionately,
with his warm, living hand pressed upon the chill, pulseless one of the
nameless dead girl; and in the years to come he kept that impulsive vow
made there in the presence of the living and the dead.



CHAPTER XI.


To return to Mme. Lorraine the night when Eliot Van Zandt lay like one
dead before her door in a pool of his own blood, deserted by the brutal
Remond, who had left him for dead upon the pavement.

She had peeped from the window as Carmontelle had charged her with
doing, although she had denied the accusation, and she had beheld all
that passed. If she had not conceived a passion for Van Zandt, he might
have perished, for all she would have cared; but something of womanly
softness stole into her heart as she gazed, and she murmured:

"Can he be dead, or only in a deadly swoon? What if I go and find out?"

Glancing up and down the street to make sure that no one was in sight,
she slipped out and knelt down by the prostrate form. Pushing back his
coat and vest, she laid her hand over his heart.

"There is some faint pulse. He lives, he lives!" she murmured,
joyfully. "Now, now is my chance to act the good Samaritan. I will take
him into my house, nurse him, tend him, and gratitude may win for me
that which beauty and fascination failed to conquer."

She hastily summoned a confidential servant, a woman who had been in
her employ many years, and the repository of many strange secrets.
Together they managed to convey the wounded, unconscious man into the
house, although the domestic expostulated with every breath.

"Hold your tongue, Mima. It is none of your business. You have only to
obey my orders," madame returned, coolly. "The underground chamber,
please. His presence is to be kept a secret. You and I will have the
care of him--you are quite skillful enough, after your experience as a
hospital nurse during the war, to attend his wound. He will be hidden
here, while to the world he will have mysteriously disappeared."

They laid him down on a couch in the wide hall, and Mima took a lamp
and went out.

Soon she returned, and stood before her mistress, huge, and tall, and
dark, with a malignant scowl on her homely foreign face.

"Madame, your strange guest-chamber is ready," she said, with curt
sarcasm. "But this heavy body--how shall we convey it down the stairs?"

"You are big and strong enough," Mme. Lorraine replied, coolly. "You
may go in front and carry his body; I will follow with his pretty head
in my arms."

And so, as if the fate that had stricken him down into seeming death
had not been dark enough, he was borne, an unconscious prisoner, into
an underground chamber beneath Mme. Lorraine's house--a luxurious
chamber, richly furnished, but of whose presence no one was aware
save herself and this servant, for it was entered by a door cleverly
concealed among the oak panelings of the hall. The light of day never
entered this secret chamber. It was illumined by a swinging-lamp, and
the odor of dried rose leaves from a jar of _pot-pourri_ in one corner
pleasantly pervaded the air, dispelling some of the mustiness and
closeness inseparable from its underground situation.

They laid Van Zandt down upon a soft white bed, and Mme. Lorraine said,
coolly:

"Now, Mima, you may examine into the extent of his wound."

The large, masculine-looking woman went to work in quite a professional
way on her unconscious patient, and in a short time she looked around
and said, to the great relief of her mistress:

"It is an ugly wound, very near his heart, but not necessarily a
dangerous one, unless a fever sets in. He has fainted from loss of
blood, and I will dress the wound before I attempt to revive him. You
may go upstairs, for I see you growing pale already at the sight of
blood, and I don't want you here fainting on my hands."

"Thank you, Mima," said Mme. Lorraine, almost meekly; for one of her
weaknesses, which she shared in common with most women, was that the
sight of blood always made her very sick and faint.

She staggered out of the close room, toiled feebly up the stairs, and
drank two glasses of wine to steady her trembling nerves; then she
extinguished the lights in the house, and retired to her bed. She was
still awake when Carmontelle returned in quest of Eliot Van Zandt, and
she laughed in her sleeve at his furious, ineffectual peals at the bell.

Stealing to the window, she drew back a fold of the curtain and
peered down at him, chuckling softly when she saw him take his angry
departure. Then she returned to her silken couch, and slept soundly for
hours.

The sun was high in the heavens when Mima's rough, impatient hand shook
her broad awake without ceremony.

"Are you going to sleep all day?" she demanded. "You wouldn't if you
knew what had happened. The little one's gone. I can't find her in the
house or the grounds, and her bed ain't been slept in all night."

She gazed suspiciously into madame's startled face, which was not
so handsome now with the cosmetics washed from it, and that frown
wrinkling her brow. She repeated Mima's word in apparently stupid amaze:

"Gone!"

"Yes, gone! Don't you know anything about it? Ain't you had a hand in
it?"

Mme. Lorraine, sitting up in bed in her night-robe of soft white linen,
burst out, indignantly:

"Look here, Mima, don't make a fool of yourself. If the girl's gone,
it's none of my work. She threatened, the last time I beat her, that
she would run away, and I suppose she's kept her word. I've noticed
that some of the men that come here were sweet on her, and she's gone
with one of them, no doubt."

Mima stood like one petrified, looking at her, when she suddenly burst
out again:

"Oh, dear! perhaps she has taken Selim! Run, Mima, to the stables. Oh,
the little wretch!--if she dared--"

Mima interrupted, harshly:

"She has not taken your idol. I knew she was in the habit of stealing
him out for a wild canter sometimes, and I ran to the stables when I
missed her. Selim was there all right, and the ponies, too."

"Then she has gone off with some of the men; she has eloped, the little
vixen, and may joy go with her! It is a good riddance of bad rubbish,"
madame cried, in such violent indignation that the servant's suspicions
were disarmed. Seeing the impression she had made, the wily ex-actress
went on: "I dare say that was the cause of the shooting last night.
I was awakened by the report of a pistol, and jumped out of bed and
ran to the window. I saw a carriage in front of my door, and two men
scuffling on the pavement. Suddenly one fell to the ground; the other
jumped into the carriage and drove rapidly away. No doubt the wicked
little baggage was in the vehicle, and the fight was over her. Let her
go, the little nobody. I shall make no effort to find her. But aren't
you going to give me my chocolate, when I'm so weak I can scarcely
speak?" pausing in her voluble tirade, and fixing a glance of reproach
on the servant's dark, stolid face.

Mima shrugged her broad shoulders sarcastically and retired, and madame
sprung out of bed, thrust her feet into satin slippers, and huddled on
an elaborate _robe de chambre_.

"I suppose I shall have to dress myself now, having deprived myself
of my little maid's services to gratify my desire for revenge," she
muttered, half regretfully. "_Ciel_! but she had deft fingers and a
correct taste. I can not replace her services by another, for the
secrets of this old house are not to be trusted to a stranger. Well, I
am a thousand dollars the richer, although Remond let the prize slip
through his fingers after he had paid the price. And what a fortune it
was that cast Van Zandt into my hands! I have fallen in love with the
beautiful boy. It is really love, not the _penchant_ I have entertained
for a score of others. Ah!" She paused in her soliloquy, for Mima
entered with a tray on which glistened the gold and silver of a costly
breakfast service, spread with delicate edibles. "Your patient, Mima,
how is he?" she queried, anxiously.

"He is doing well, and thinks he is in a hospital," said the woman. "It
is best to humor him in that delusion for several days; for if he were
to find out the truth now, he would fret and chafe, and perhaps bring
on the fever I am anxious to avoid. So, madame, you would do well to
stay out of the sick-room until he is well enough to bear the news that
he is a prisoner of love," sarcastically.



CHAPTER XII.


Carmontelle stood for many minutes gazing like one dazed at the still
and lovely features of the nameless dead girl. He was stunned, as it
were, by the magnitude of this misfortune, and could only murmur over
and over in accents of pity and despair combined:

"Too late, too late, too late!"

At length he too flung himself down before the altar with bowed head,
although no prayers escaped his lips, for the stupor of despair was
upon him. She was dead, poor unfortunate Little Nobody, and there was
naught to pray for now.

There the detective found him, two hours later, when he came with
news--news at once good and bad.

"I found Remond," he said. "He was about leaving the city by the
steamer 'Ellen Bayne.' As he was about crossing the plank, I collared
him and demanded the antidote. He was startled at first, and glared at
me fiercely, then suddenly assumed a calmness that looked so much like
acquiescence that I was completely deceived. He put his hand into his
breast-pocket, and drew out a small vial of colorless liquid. I thought
he was going to give it to me, and, thrown off my guard by his apparent
coolness, released him and stretched out my hand. The cunning villain
took instant advantage of my belief; he sprung away from me across the
gang-plank, which was instantly drawn in, as the steamer was leaving
the wharf. Standing on the deck, he looked at me with the leer of a
fiend and immediately flung the vial into the river."

"The fiend!" Carmontelle said, hoarsely. "But it matters not. She is
already dead."

And he led the dismayed and disappointed detective to the chapel, and
showed him the silent sleeper there, with the cool white lilies on her
breast.

"How beautiful, how unfortunate!" murmured the kind-hearted detective,
in reverential awe. His profession had made him familiar with all
sorts of tragedies and sorrows, but this one seemed to him as sad and
pathetic as any he had ever encountered. He looked with deep sympathy
upon the man beside him to whom the girl's death was such a crushing
blow, but words failed him. He could only look his silent and sincere
sympathy.

Suddenly there recurred to Carmontelle the remembrance of Eliot Van
Zandt, whose fate was still wrapped in mystery.

"Come, we can do no good here now," he said, mournfully. "The fiends
have done their work too well. We must try to get at the bottom of the
mystery that enshrouds the fate of my poor friend."

After promising the mother superior to return and attend to the funeral
obsequies of the dead girl, he went away, taking the detective with him
to assist in the inquiry for the young journalist.

It did not seem possible that they could fail in this search, but
though the anxious quest was kept up for many days and nights, not a
single clew rewarded their efforts. Eliot Van Zandt had disappeared as
completely as though an earthquake had opened and swallowed him into
the bosom of old mother earth.

The detective could form but one conclusion, which he reluctantly
imparted to his employer.

"The young man was most probably murdered that night, and his corpse
flung into the river, but no proofs will ever be found implicating
Remond as the murderer. Nor is it likely that the Frenchman will
ever turn up again in New Orleans. Fearful of detection, he will go
abroad and plunge into new crimes befitting his evil nature, and the
disappearance of poor Van Zandt will most likely remain forever upon
the terrible list of unexplained disappearance of human beings."

Days came and went, and it seemed as if he had uttered a true prophecy.

In the meantime, a tomb in the convent cemetery had received to its
cold embrace the shrouded form of Mme. Lorraine's beautiful victim, and
the madame herself had been apprised of the fact by a brief and bitter
note from Pierre Carmontelle.

"The victim of your malice is dead and in her untimely grave," he
wrote. "Remond has fled the city, and the Jockey Club has been told the
secret of your guilt and his. They are wild with rage, but they spare
you yet until they can make sure of your guilt, and bring your crime
home to you. In the meantime, I tell you frankly that you are under
constant espionage, and the task of my life is to avenge the death of
poor little ma'amselle upon you and that cowardly Frenchman. Look well
to yourself, for enemies encompass you and punishment awaits you."

Madame grew pale beneath her rouge, and twisted the angry note
nervously in her jeweled fingers.

"A frank enemy!" she muttered. "He gives me fair warning. Like the
deadly serpent, he gives forth his venomous hiss before he stings. He
is very kind. Forewarned is forearmed, they say."

She reread it with a nervous contraction of her brows.

"So the little one is dead! I did not intend it, but--it is better so.
Fate has removed an incumbrance from my path. Now for a call upon my
guest, to electrify him with my news. Mima says he is fast recovering,
and that I may venture upon a visit."

She went to her dressing-room and donned a street costume of olive
cashmere and silk, with bonnet and gloves and all the paraphernalia
of walking costume. Then, with a choice bunch of flowers culled from
her garden, she let herself through the secret entrance to the cellar
chamber, and preceded by the frowning servant, was ushered into the
presence of Eliot Van Zandt.

He lay, pale and handsome and restless, among the white pillows in the
luxurious room. The lamp that burned night and day shed a soft, roseate
glow over everything, and brightened somewhat the pallid cast of his
countenance.

"Ah, Monsieur Van Zandt, my poor, dear Yankee friend, the cruel doctors
and nurses have permitted me to call on you at last! And how do you
find yourself this evening, _mon ami_?" she cried, fluttering up to his
bedside, all smiles and sweet solicitude.

His dark-gray eyes opened wide with surprise and displeasure.

"Madame Lorraine!" he ejaculated, angrily, but she pretended not to
understand the surprise and anger.

"Yes, it is I," she said, sweetly. "Did you think you were deserted
by all your friends? But it was the cruel doctors in the hospital;
they would admit no one until you were out of danger. I came every day
and begged until they gave me leave to see you. Ah, _mon ami_, I have
suffered such anxiety for your sake!" with uplifted eyes and pensive
air. "But, thank the good God, you are restored to me."

The dark-gray eyes flashed with resentment, and a warm flush crept up
to the young man's pale brow. He waved her away indignantly.

"Madame Lorraine, your hypocrisy is intolerable!" he exclaimed, hotly.
"Leave me. Your call is in the worst of taste, and most undesirable."

With impetuous grace, she flung herself down on her knees beside him,
surprise, dismay, and wounded love expressed eloquently on her mobile
face.

"Ah, _mon ami_, what have I done to receive this repulse? I come to you
in friendship and regard, and you order me away! Good nurse"--turning
her head around for a moment to scornful Mima--"is it that your
patient is delirious yet, that he thus upbraids his truest friend?"

"Get up from your knees, Madame Lorraine; you can not deceive me
by your artful professions," Van Zandt cried, sternly; and looking
wondrously grand and handsome in his anger, although he could scarcely
lift his blonde head from the pillow. "I am not delirious; my mind is
perfectly clear, and, in proof of it, listen: I was in your garden
that night, and heard your nefarious plotting with Remond for the ruin
of that poor young girl. She heard, too, and, distracted with terror,
begged me to save her. It was I who brought Carmontelle to the rescue,
while I held at bay the villain Remond. Now you understand why I loathe
the sight of you--why I wish you to go out from my presence, never to
enter it again."

She wept and protested, as she had done with Carmontelle, that it was
all a cruel mistake. She had but made a match, French-fashion, for her
ward. Remond was pledged to marry her that night. She did not find him
credulous, as she had hoped. He smiled in scorn, and reiterated his
wish that she should leave the room.

"Very well," she said, bitterly, "I am going, but not before I tell the
news I brought; your officious intermeddling was fatal to the girl you
pretended to save--it was the cause of her death."

"Death!" he echoed; and the fair, stately head fell back among the
pillows, the lids drooped over his eyes. Mima believed he was about to
swoon, and hastily brought restoratives.

"You should have held your cursed tongue!" she muttered, in an audible
aside to her mistress; but Mme. Lorraine did not reply. She was
watching that deathly pale face that looked up at her so eagerly as Van
Zandt whispered, faintly:

"Dead! Oh, you do but jest! It can not be!"

"It is no jest. It is the truth. Do you want to hear how it came
about? Remond had two subtle Eastern drugs, the one to induce heavy
sleep, the other to awaken her at his will. Well, you and Carmontelle
interfered, and so Remond ran away with the second drug, and--she died
in her sleep."

"No, no!" he cried, almost imploringly.

"Ah, you regret your work when too late!" madame cried, triumphantly.
"It is sad, is it not? But it is true as Heaven. Barely an hour ago I
received a note from him, to say that she was dead and buried, the poor
little wretch!"

"It is your fiendish work!" he said, bitterly. "May Heaven punish you!
Ah, the poor innocent little ma'amselle, it was hard for her to go like
that. But--better death than dishonor!"

He put his white hand up before his face, and a long, deep, shuddering
sigh shook him from head to foot. Mima shook her mistress roughly by
the shoulder and pointed to the door that led up the stairs to the
hidden entrance.

"Go!" she whispered, harshly. "I don't know what prompted you to this
devil's work. You must have wanted to kill him. I don't know how this
will result now. Go, and take your hateful face out of his sight!"

Madame flung down her roses with a whimper, and trailed her rich robes
from the room in a passion of disappointed love and hope.

"He loved her--like the rest!" she muttered, fiercely. "I wish she had
died before he ever saw her. But I swear I will win him yet, or--he
shall never see the light of day again!"



CHAPTER XIII.


Van Zandt lay for a long time with his face hidden in his hands, long,
labored sighs shaking his manly form, feeling as if a nightmare of
horror had fastened itself upon him. It had been bad enough to lie
here, bound hand and foot by the pain of his severe wound, and chafing
fiercely against his misfortune, but with the inward comfort of the
knowledge that by his bravery he had saved a girl, Little Nobody though
she was, from a cruel fate; but--now!

Now, at the sudden and cruel news Mme. Lorraine had maliciously
brought, his heart almost ceased its beating, so awful was the shock.

Dead, gone out of life in her maiden bloom, so beautiful, so innocent
and ignorant, wronged irretrievably by a woman without a heart--a
handsome creature, wicked enough to sell a young, immortal soul to ruin
for a handful of sordid gold! Bitter, sorrowful, indignant were his
meditations while he lay there, with his hand before his face, watched
furtively by the big, ugly Mima, who, with all her rough ways, was a
skillful and tender nurse, having spent four years of her life caring
for wounded soldiers in an army hospital.

She moved nearer to him at last, and said, uneasily:

"Best not to take it so hard, sir. The girl's gone to a better place
than this wicked world, where she never saw one happy day. You'll make
yourself worse, taking on like this, and it can't do any good to the
dead, so cheer up and think of getting well as fast as you can, and out
of this lonesome place."

He looked curiously at the hard, homely face as she spoke, for she had
been shy and taciturn heretofore, wasting few words upon her patient.
She had told him that he was in a private hospital, and he had not
doubted the assertion, although, as days passed by, it seemed strange
to him that he saw no face but hers about him. Another thing that
puzzled him was, that it seemed always night in his room--the curtains
drawn and the lamp burning. When he spoke of this to Mima, she answered
abruptly that he slept all day and lay awake all night.

"And I never see the doctor when he comes to visit me," he added.

"You are always asleep when he pays his midday visit," she replied.

In the languor and pain of his illness he accepted all her statements
in good faith, although chafing against his forced detention, and
wondering what his publishers and his home folks would think of his
strange silence. He had resolved only this morning that he would ask
Carmontelle to write to them for him to say that he was sick--not
wounded--only sick.

Now he looked fixedly at his strange, grim nurse, and said, sternly:

"Never admit that woman, that fiend rather, into my presence again. Do
you understand me?"

"Yes, sir," Mima replied, soothingly; and he continued, anxiously:

"Now, tell me, has any one called to see me since I was brought to this
hospital? I mean, except that woman, Madame Lorraine?"

"Lord, yes, sir; several gentlemen that said they was from the Jockey
Club, and friends of yours. But the doctor's orders was strict not to
admit anybody."

"How came Madame Lorraine to get admittance, then?" with a very black
frown.

"Lord, sir, she wheedled the doctor with her pretty face!"

He frowned again, and said, peremptorily:

"When the doctor comes in again, you must awaken me if I am asleep. I
must speak to him."

"Yes, sir," meekly.

"And if the gentlemen from the club come again, say to the doctor that
they must be admitted. I am quite well enough to receive my friends,
and I must get some one to write home for me. Will you do as I tell
you?" looking at her with contracted brows, and a dark-red flush
mounting into his cheek that alarmed her, experienced nurse that she
was.

"Yes, yes, my dear sir, I will do just as you say," she replied, eager
to pacify him, for she saw that what she had been dreading all the time
had come to pass, through the imprudence of Mme. Lorraine--her patient
had been driven by excitement into a high fever.



CHAPTER XIV.


In the meantime, a strange event had taken place at the Convent of Le
Bon Berger, through the curiosity of the old priest, who, while bending
over his book in the chapel, had overheard Carmontelle's story of the
mysterious drug and its strange antidote. Although outwardly absorbed
in his devotions, he had listened with an excited gleam in his dim old
eyes, and once had half started forward to speak, but checked himself
quickly, and remained quiescent during the time that elapsed before
Carmontelle and the praying nuns took their departure from the chapel.

When all were gone, and there remained only himself and that still form
in the black-draped coffin, he started eagerly forward and stood in
excited silence gazing at the beautiful face of the dead girl. Once he
lifted his old, wrinkled hand and pressed hers tenderly, then withdrew
it, shuddering at that mortal coldness.

It was no wonder that the old priest had been excited by the story
of Carmontelle, for years ago he had been an enthusiastic traveler
in Eastern lands, and an old witch--or sorceress, as she was called
there--had given him two drugs to which she ascribed the mysterious
properties possessed by those of which Carmontelle had spoken. He had
kept them always, certainly with no intention of ever testing the
strange power claimed for them, but only because they were part and
parcel of the box of curiosities he had brought with him from that
fascinating tour. To-day the two vials lay safely in the box, wrapped
in a bit of yellow parchment on which, in a strange tongue, were
inscribed the directions for their use.

It flashed over him that the hour had come when the gift of the old
hag, at whose strange leer he had shrunk and shuddered, was to be
instrumental in saving a human life.

But he was old and wise, and he knew that life is not always a
blessing; that often and often it is but the bearing of a heavy
cross, with lagging steps and weary heart, to a far Golgotha. In the
dim confessional men and women, and even the young and tender, had
poured their griefs and their sins into his compassionate hearing, and
many had waited for death with infinite yearning, while some--and he
trembled and crossed himself at the sad remembrance--had gone mad over
wrong and ruth, and in despair had cut the Gordian knot of life. It was
of all this he had thought when he had restrained his impulse to speak
to Carmontelle; it was of this he was thinking now, as he stood there,
old and gray and holy, by the side of that beautiful bud of life in the
coffin.

He was, as it were, weighing entity and non-entity in careful,
metaphorical scales. He was solemnly asking himself, "Which is
better--life or death?"

From the saints and angels in that bright world beyond, where his pious
thoughts continually rested, seemed to come a low, eager answer:

"Death!"

He looked again, with agonized doubt, at that fair, lovely face, so
innocent in its deep repose.

The mother superior had told him that the girl, had she lived, was
destined to be the bride of Carmontelle.

"I know the man--rich, generous, and worldly. As his wife, she will be
a society queen. Her idols will be wealth and pleasure. She will be
gay and heartless, forgetful of all holy things, living only for this
world. Better, far better, the bride of Heaven."

And crossing himself again, with a muttered prayer he went out of
the little chapel, where presently the pale-faced nuns came again,
muttering their pious aves for the dead.

That night in his cell, impelled by some irresistible force within
himself, he took out the small vial from the curiosity-box, and read
the strangely lettered parchment, for he was an earnest student, and
versed in Oriental lore.

Great drops of dew beaded his temples as he spelled out the meaning of
the parchment; and no wonder, for he read there that, although one lay
as dead for three days, a few drops of the antidote poured between the
lips would break that deathly sleep and restore life; but after those
wondrous three days the drug could be of no avail--death must surely
ensue.

In the cold and cheerless cell the old priest shivered as with a chill.

"What an awful responsibility lies upon me!" he muttered. "It is for
me to decide whether to give her back to Carmontelle and the world, to
be spoiled by its vanities, or leave her soul, now pure and unspotted,
free to enter heaven."

After an hour of painful meditation he put away the mysterious drug and
spent the night upon his knees on the cold stone floor of the cell,
calling on all the saints to uphold him in his pious resolve to save
the soul of the lovely girl by the sacrifice of her life.

And the next afternoon, in a shaken voice and a holy resolve written on
his ashen features, he read the long Latin prayers for the dead to the
assembled nuns and to Carmontelle among them, and saw the form of poor
Little Nobody consigned to the grim vault in the convent cemetery.

Two days and a night had thus passed while the girl lay in that
death-like trance. A few hours more and the prisoned soul would be
separated from the body, and the story of her brief life be ended.

But when the shades of night again fell on the convent walls, a
revulsion of feeling brought remorse to the soul of the old priest. He
was haunted by the thought of the living girl prisoned in the vault
among the dead. In the solitude of his cell that night a strange unrest
grew upon him, and evil spirits seemed to people the gloom.

He started up in terror from his knees, the great drops of sweat
pouring over his face.

"Yes, yes, it is murder!" he uttered, fearfully. "Heaven put the means
of saving her in my hands, and I was too blind to understand. But I
will atone, I will atone!"

A sudden thought came to him, and he hurriedly sought a brother priest
and the mother superior. To them, in deep humility, he confessed his
error.

"I was deceived by tempting devils, but I see my mistake in time
to correct it," he said, humbly. "Several hours yet remain of the
time, and I will restore her to life, by the aid of Heaven and this
mysterious drug, and her return to life must be a secret."

They went with him secretly to the dark vault. They took from the
coffin that unconscious form and bore it in their arms to a secluded
chamber. There they poured between the pale, sealed lips a few drops of
the mysterious drug, and kept anxious vigil all night over her bedside.

In a few hours they began to reap the reward of their solicitude. The
appearance of the girl's face grew less death-like, a delicate moisture
appeared on her skin, a faint color in her lips, and gradually a
barely perceptible respiration became apparent. The drug had done its
restorative work perfectly.

Down on his knees went the anxious old priest, and he thanked Heaven
for the life he had saved.

When the morning light began to gild the convent spire, the dark eyes
opened slowly upon the face of the mother superior, who was watching
intently for this sign of life. The priests had retired, and they were
quite alone. Tears of relief sparkled into the eyes of the good nun.

"Dear child, you are awake at last!" she exclaimed, gladly; but the
girl made no reply. Her lids had closed again, and she had fallen into
a quiet, natural sleep that lasted until the chiming of the vesper
bells.

She awoke to find her slumber guarded by another nun, who had taken the
place of the good mother. When the dark, puzzled eyes wandered around
the room, she chirped sweetly:

"Oh, my dear, you have slept so long, you must be very, very hungry. I
will bring you some food."

She came back presently with some light, nutritious broth in a bowl,
and fed the girl gently from a tea-spoon. She swallowed languidly,
and a few mouthfuls sufficed her appetite. Then she looked at the
pleasant-faced nun, and said, languidly:

"Good sister, I do not understand. Just now I was with Monsieur Van
Zandt. He was wounded. Oh, how pale he was!" shivering. "Another
minute, and I am here. How is it, and where is he?"

The old priest had entered noiselessly, and the low voice was
distinctly audible to his ears. He shuddered.

He had just read in a paper of the mysterious disappearance of Eliot
Van Zandt, who was supposed to have been murdered, and his body flung
into the lake or the river. Hence the girl's strange words struck
coldly on his senses. He thought:

"Her soul has been parted from the body in that strange trance, and
has taken cognizance of the man vainly sought for by friends and
detectives. What if she could tell where he is hidden!"

Muttering a prayer for the girl, he came up to the bedside.

"Bless you, my daughter," he said, soothingly. "And so you have seen
Eliot Van Zandt? Does he yet live?"

She looked at him gently and with surprise. Perhaps, in the strange
experiences of her trance, she was inured to surprises.

"Holy father," she murmured, reverentially, then, gently. "I have seen
him. He is not dead. He is not going to die. But he is very ill; he is
dangerously wounded."

The little nun chirped an "oh!" of vivacious wonder, but the priest
silenced her by a warning glance.

"Where is he? Where is Monsieur Van Zandt, my daughter?" he questioned,
eagerly.

"Where?" echoed Little Nobody. "Why, in the next room, doubtless, good
father, for a minute ago I was with him, and then I found myself here
so suddenly that it seemed a little strange to me."

"Yes, it is strange," said the old priest, growing pale and hurriedly
crossing himself. "But you are mistaken. He is not in this house. If
you know where he is, tell me, daughter."

She shut her eyes reflectively, opened them again, and answered,
dreamily:

"He was lying on a bed in a pretty room, where a lamp was burning all
day. There was a red wound on his breast, and he was pale and ill. I do
not know the house, but Madame Lorraine can tell you, for it was her
servant, Mima, that I saw giving him a glass of water."



CHAPTER XV.


The nun looked at the old priest with round eyes of wonder.

"Father Quentin, what strange thing is this?" she uttered, fearfully.

"Ask me not to explain it, my good daughter; it is a manifestation of
psychic power beyond human explanation," he replied, hastily quitting
the room to seek the mother superior.

As a result of his interview with her, he was soon on his way toward
Esplanade Street and Mme. Lorraine.

Seldom had the footsteps of such a holy man crossed the threshold of
the gay and volatile French woman. She grew pale through her rouge and
her powder when she read the name upon his card, and sent word that she
was not at home.

He told the little page that he would wait until madame returned, and
took a seat in the quiet salon.

Angry and baffled, Mme. Lorraine came down to him.

_"Bénedicité_, daughter," said Father Quentin; but she looked at him
inquiringly, without bending her lovely head.

"I have come to see Eliot Van Zandt, who lies wounded in your house,"
he said, boldly.

She gave a quick, nervous start, perfectly perceptible to his eyes, and
her glance sought his, full of frightened inquiry.

"The girl was right; he is hidden here," he thought, with fluttering
pulses; but aloud he said, with pretended authority and outward
calmness:

"Lead me to his presence; I must see the young man at once."

She had recovered her calmness as quickly as she had lost it.

"Holy father, you amaze me!" she exclaimed, haughtily. "The man is
not here. I read in my paper only this morning that he had most
mysteriously disappeared. But come, I see you do not believe me. You
shall search my house."

He was a little staggered by her assurance.

"I do not wish to seem intrusive," he said; "but my informant was very
positive."

Then he mentally shook himself. After all, he had no authority for his
assertion, except the strange words of a girl who had just come out of
a trance-like sleep--a girl who might simply have dreamed it all.

But he followed her all over the pretty, elegantly appointed house, the
little page carrying the keys and unlocking door after door until he
was sure that not an apartment in the house remained unvisited.

"You have a servant-woman, Mima," he said to her, as they descended the
stairs.

"Yes," she replied; "Mima is in the kitchen, preparing luncheon. You
shall see her, too, holy father."

Mima, at work over a dainty luncheon, bowed her head grimly to receive
his blessing.

"You have been nursing a sick, a wounded man, Monsieur Van Zandt," he
said, trying to take her by surprise; but she did not betray as much
self-consciousness as her mistress.

"The holy father mistakes; I am a cook, not a nurse," she replied,
coolly.

And so he came away baffled, after all.

Mme. Lorraine pressed a gold piece excitedly into the hand of the
little page.

"Follow the good priest, and come back and tell me where he lives," she
exclaimed.

       *       *       *       *       *

Father Quentin went his way immediately back to the convent, with
the story of his disappointment, and concluded that Little Nobody's
dream had been simply a dream, with nothing supernatural about it. The
light that had seemed to shine momentarily on the mystery of Eliot Van
Zandt's fate went out in rayless darkness.

For the girl, she grew better and stronger daily, and submitted, with
child-like patience, to the innumerable questions the good sisters
asked her of her past life. They were shocked when she told them the
story of her life with Mme. Lorraine, the life that she had counted of
so little value that she had never even given her little white slave a
name.

They went to Father Quentin with the shocking story--that the girl had
no name, and that that heartless woman had called her Vixen, Savage,
Baggage, Nobody, by turns. She must be baptized immediately.

The good priest was as heartily scandalized as one could wish. He chose
a name at once for their charge. It was the sweet, simple one, Marie.

And that same day, in the little chapel, surrounded by the tearful
nuns, Little Nobody stood before the altar and received the baptismal
name, Marie.

The next day she was formally introduced into the convent school, which
consisted of twenty young ladies, all boarders. She was cautioned to
say nothing of her past life to her schoolmates. The priest said that
she was a ward of his, and he wished the pupils to be very kind to
Mlle. Marie, who, through the peculiar circumstances of her life, had
not received necessary mental culture, and must now begin the rudiments
of her education.

For downright, honest, uncompromising curiosity and rudeness, no
class of human beings transcends the modern school-girl. The pupils
of Le Bon Berger immediately set themselves to work to torture the
new scholar--the little ignoramus, as they dubbed her. Such ignorance
as this they had never encountered before. They teased and chaffed
her in their audacious fashion, and speedily made her understand her
humiliation--a great girl of fifteen or sixteen beginning to learn her
alphabet like a child of five years!

She was used to being chaffed and despised, poor Little Nobody! It
was the life at Mme. Loraine's over again, and the great dark eyes
flashed in sullen scorn as they did then, and the small hands clinched
themselves at her sides in impotent pain.

"I shall run away from here!" she thought, bitterly.

They had one habit with which they daily demonstrated to her their
superior wisdom. At recess they would assemble in a great group and
read aloud from the daily newspaper. Sitting apart under the great
trees of the convent garden, the new pupil listened, against her will,
to every word, and so there came to her one day, through this strange
means, the news of Eliot Van Zandt's strange disappearance from the
ranks of the living.

With dilated eyes, parted lips and wildly throbbing heart she listened,
and when the reader's voice came to an end, the group was electrified
by a spring and a rush and a vision of golden hair flying on the wind,
as the new pupil flew, with the speed of an Atalanta, into the presence
of the mother superior.

"What is the matter with Mademoiselle Marie? has she got a fit?"
exclaimed the merry, mischievous school-girls.



CHAPTER XVI.


Little Nobody had flung down the spelling-book that had become her
constant companion, and rushed impetuously to the presence of the good
mother superior.

In a few minutes more she had wrested from the gentle nun her whole
story, from the hour when Carmontelle had brought her to the convent
until now, when, through the fanaticism of Father Quentin, she was
as one dead to the world outside, her young life solemnly devoted to
Heaven.

The dark eyes flashed indignantly, the pale cheeks crimsoned with anger.

"How dared he?" she exclaimed.

"Daughter!"

The gently remonstrating tone had no effect on the excited girl. She
continued, angrily:

"Do you not see that it was wicked to shut me up for life? I do not
want to be a nun. I will not be a nun! I tell you frankly their pale
faces and black dresses give me the horrors! I shall leave here at once
to find the poor Yankee that was wounded in defending me. He is in
the power of Madame Lorraine, I am sure. I dreamed of him, and he was
wounded, and in the care of Mima, her servant."

The nun assured her that Father Quentin had been already to Esplanade
Street, and that Mme. Lorraine and her servant had declared their
ignorance of the journalist's whereabouts.

Mlle. Marie's lip curled in unmitigated scorn.

"As if their words could be taken for truth," she uttered, bitterly.
"Ah, I know her falsehoods too well."

The nun knew not what to do. The demand of the girl to leave the
convent frightened her. She was compelled to falter a refusal.

Then Marie flatly rebelled. Some of the spirit that had made Remond
call her a little savage flashed into her eyes, and she vowed that she
would not be detained.

The mother went hastily to call Father Quentin. He firmly refused to
grant the girl's wish. He was persuaded that to do so would be to
insure her own eternal ruin.

The passionate heart, the undisciplined temper, took fire at his flat
refusal.

To the poor girl it seemed that the whole world was arrayed against her.

Why had the old priest saved her from death if she was to be immured
forever, as in a living tomb, in this grim old convent? The sanguine
youth and hope within her rose up in passionate protest.

She pleaded, and when entreaty failed, she flung down a passionate
defiance. Go she would! Eliot Van Zandt needed her to deliver him from
Mme. Lorraine's baneful power. Should she torture him, destroy him,
while she who owed him so much forsook him? Ah, no, no!

The result was that the defiant, contumacious pupil was consigned to
solitary confinement in a cell for the remainder of the day, until she
should come to her senses and ask pardon of the priest and the good
mother superior.

She flung herself down, sobbing, on the cold stone floor, too angry to
repeat the prayers Father Quentin had recommended her to address to
the saints. Her thoughts centered around Eliot Van Zandt in agonizing
solicitude.

"He was my friend; he fought Remond to save me," she murmured; "and
shall I desert him in the danger he incurred for my sake? Never, never!
not if to find him I have to venture back into the spider's den, into
madame's presence again."

Day waned and faded, and the soft chiming of the vesper bells rang out
the hour of her release. Pale and watchful, she knelt among the nuns
and the pupils in the chapel, but ere the Aves and the Pater Nosters
were over, she had flitted like a shadow from the cloister, and in
"the dim, religious light" made her way into the garden, having first
secured her hat and cloak from a convenient rack. Breathless she made
her hurried way through the thick, dark shrubberies, praying now that
Heaven would aid her to escape from the half-insane old priest.

"Where there's a will there's a way." Desperation had made her bold and
reckless. But one means of escape presented itself, and that was to
scale the high stone wall with the bristling spikes on top. By the aid
of convenient shrubberies she accomplished the feat, and, with bleeding
hands and torn garments, dropped down upon the other side into the
street.

Fortunately, no one was passing, so her escape remained unnoticed.
Panting for breath, in her eagerness she ran the length of a square
and turned down a corner, losing herself in a labyrinth of streets.
She knew not where she was; but that did not matter yet. She was only
intent on putting the greatest possible distance between herself and
the convent where she had been so nearly immured for life.

After an hour's rapid walking through a locality of which she was
totally ignorant, she came suddenly into a street with which she was
familiar. From this she knew that she could make her way without
difficulty to Mme. Lorraine's house.

A sudden terror and reluctance seized upon her at thought of entering
that house of danger, and unconsciously her footsteps slackened their
headlong speed.

"To go back into the lion's den--it is hard!" she thought; then,
bravely, "But my friend risked his life for me. I can not do less for
him."



CHAPTER XVII.


Weary and footsore, she toiled on toward Esplanade Street, that was
still far away.

She was but little used to walking, for Mme. Lorraine had never
permitted her to leave the house, and her only excursions had been her
stolen rides on the back of Selim, Mme. Lorraine's petted Arab. Her
headlong pace at first began to tell on her now, and her steps grew
slower and slower, while her slight figure and fair face attracted much
attention from passers-by on the brightly lighted street, although
her shy, frightened air protected her from insult from even the evil
disposed. Her purity, so sweetly imaged on her young face, was a potent
shield.

At length she emerged into Esplanade Street. She had been several hours
making her way from the convent to this point.

It was nearing midnight, and the girl was vaguely frightened, although,
in her almost infantile innocence and ignorance, she knew nothing of
the "danger that walks forth with the night" in the streets of a great
city. She had been more fortunate than she knew in escaping molestation
and pursuit. Her chief fear had been of pursuit by the fanatical old
priest, but her hurried glances behind her, from time to time, failed
to discover any pursuer; and in a short while more she stood trembling
before the dark, silent front of the house where her young life had
been spent in semi-slavery as the plaything of giddy Mme. Lorraine.

A strange impulse seized her to turn and fly away; a stronger instinct
rooted her to the ground.

"He is here! he must be here!" she murmured; "and I can not desert him,
my good friend."

She stood there a few moments gazing at the closed door, then walked
rapidly to the garden gate by which she had let Van Zandt through that
memorable night. By a strange chance of fortune she had the key in her
pocket.

Unlocking it softly, she let herself into the garden, and sunk down
wearily on the rustic seat where she had fallen into such heavy sleep
the night of her attempted abduction. Against her will her eyelids
drooped, and slumber stole over her weary senses. The soft air coolly
fanned her hot face, and the April dew fell heavily on her floating
hair and thin summer dress; but, unconscious of the chill and dampness,
she dreamed on until the first faint gray streak of dawn appeared in
the east.

Then she woke suddenly, lifted her crouching figure, and looked about
her. Memory rushed over her in a bewildering flood.

"I have been asleep when I ought to have been planning how to
get into that house unperceived to search for him!" she thought,
self-reproachfully.

She knew that there would be no great difficulty about the matter,
because Mima was always very careless about fastening up the back part
of the house. Being slight and agile, she made an easy entrance into
the house by the united opportunities of a step-ladder and an unbolted
back window.

With a throbbing heart and shining eyes, she found herself inside the
house, and, as she believed, near to the kind Yankee friend in whom she
took such an earnest interest.

Every one was asleep at this uncanny hour of the dawn, she knew.
Lightly and fearlessly she went from room to room until she had
explored the whole house in a fruitless quest for Eliot Van Zandt.

To her dismay and disappointment, her careful search was utterly
unavailing, although from her knowledge of the house she was certain
that she had left not a room unvisited. She had even peeped, by the aid
of a hall-chair, into the transom over madame's door, and then into
Mima's, too; but the sight of the latter placidly snoring among her
pillows, and of madame slumbering sweetly, as if no unrepented sins lay
heavy on her conscience, was all that rewarded her for her pains.

Disappointed and dismayed, she crept into an unused closet in the hall,
and crouching in the cobwebby corner, gave herself up to such intense
cogitation that the tired young brain succumbed again to weariness, and
she drooped forward upon the hard floor fast asleep.

Day was far advanced when she roused herself, with a start, and again
realized her situation. She heard steps and voices, and knew that the
small family was awake and astir. Presently the hall clock chimed the
hour of noon.

"I have been very lazy," she said to herself, "and--oh, dear, I am very
hungry!"

She remembered then that the nuns had not given her any supper,
because she had flatly refused to beg Father Quentin's pardon for her
wilfulness.

"Never mind," she said valiantly to herself, "I must not remember that
I am tired and hungry until I find my friend."

But hot tears came into the dark eyes, all the same. It was not
pleasant to be tired and hungry and disappointed, and even in hiding
like a dreadful criminal fearing to be captured.

Suddenly the swish of a silken robe trailed through the hall met her
ears--Mme. Lorraine!

The fugitive could not resist the temptation to push the door ajar ever
so little, and peep through the tiny aperture at her fair enemy.

And then something very strange happened.

Little Nobody, or Marie, as the nuns had called her, saw Mme. Lorraine
stop abruptly at the end of the hall and press her white and jeweled
hand upon a curious little ornate knob that appeared to form the
center-piece of the carvings and panelings of the wainscoted wall.
Instantly a section of the broad paneling glided backward through the
solid wall, like a narrow door. Mme. Lorraine stepped lightly through
the opening, and disappeared as the concealed door sprung quickly back
into its place.

Like one stunned, the girl fell back into her place of hiding.

She had spent all her life in this strange house without a suspicion of
the hidden room and the secret door, and its sudden discovery almost
paralyzed her in the first moment.

But presently her reason returned to her, and she murmured with instant
conviction:

"He is down there."

Following a sudden reckless impulse, and thinking nothing of
consequences, she bounded from the closet and pressed her little hand
upon the knob in the wall. At first it remained stationary, but when
she pushed harder it yielded so suddenly as almost to precipitate
her down a short flight of steps on which it opened. Recovering her
balance, she stepped softly downward, and the narrow door slipped
soundlessly into its place again, and as if impelled by a ghostly hand.
But the fact was, that by some clever arrangement of springs beneath
the first step, the slight pressure of her foot on the boards was
sufficient to close it.

She found herself now on the narrow flight of steps, in thick darkness;
but the momentary light that had glimmered through the open door had
shown her a narrow passage and another door at the foot of the stairs.

Thrilling with curiosity, and without fear, the girl groped her way
softly downward to the passage, starting as the murmur of voices came
to her from the other side of the door.

"I was right. He is here!" she thought, and flung herself down on the
floor in the darkness and listened with her ear against the door.

It was Mme. Lorraine's clear, bell-like voice that was speaking. It
ceased its impassioned utterances at last, and a deep, rich, manly
voice replied to her--a familiar voice that made Marie's heart beat
tumultuously and a sweet, warm color glow in her cheeks.

"It is he," she whispered, forgetting hunger, weariness, everything
unpleasant in exquisite relief and joy.



CHAPTER XVIII.


Almost a week had elapsed since the last visit of Mme. Lorraine to
Eliot Van Zandt.

During that time he had been very ill from the fever brought on by his
agitation at her indiscreet announcement of the death of the girl in
whom he had been so warmly interested.

All Mima's skill and care had been required to ward off a fatal
consequence to this relapse, and the woman had sternly forbidden any
more calls from her mistress during this critical state. Mme. Lorraine
was so frightened that she was very obedient to the mandate; but now
the embargo had been removed, and she was free to visit the fascinating
patient.

He was better. Indeed, he was rapidly convalescing, owing to Mima's
good nursing, aided by his youth and a strong constitution.

So, on this lovely April morning, madame had made herself beautiful by
every device of art at her command, and hurried through the secret door
to visit the wounded captive whom she held in durance vile.

Pale and wan, but exceedingly handsome still, Eliot Van Zandt lay upon
a velvet lounge, his fair Saxon beauty thrown into strong relief by the
dressing-gown of dark-blue silk that madame's care had supplied.

At the entrance of the superbly dressed and handsome woman, his dark
brows met with a heavy frown.

"I gave orders, Madame Lorraine, that you should not be admitted
again!" he exclaimed, with the frank petulance of convalescence.

Madame gave her graceful head an airy toss.

"No one can debar me from the privilege of entering any room in my own
house," she replied, coolly.

"Your own house?" starting.

"Precisely," with a maddening smile; and for at least two minutes a
dead silence reigned in the room that, with its swinging-lamp burning
brightly, presented the appearance of night, although it was midday
outside.

Then he exclaimed, angrily:

"I had already become convinced that there was something mysterious in
my sojourn here. I have found out that I am in an underground apartment
from which there is no apparent egress. I know that no living soul but
yourself and your servant has been near me since I was ill. Am I, then,
your prisoner?"

Smilingly, she replied:

"Do not call it by so harsh a word. It is true that you are in my
house, hidden in an underground apartment; but it was for your own
good that I brought you here. You had fatally wounded Remond, and the
authorities were after you. I--I love you," falteringly. "I could not
give you up to justice. So you are here--a prisoner, if you will, but a
beloved and well cared-for one."

"Yes, I have received skillful care and attention from your servant. I
thank you," very stiffly; "but now I am well, I desire to go."

"I am suspected of harboring you. My house is watched by officers of
the law. Should you go out, you would be instantly arrested. _Mon
Dieu_! that must not be!"

She looked at him with tender, pleading eyes.

He answered, curtly:

"If I have hurt Remond, I am willing to answer to the law for my crime
committed in the defense of the weak and the helpless. I have no wish
to shirk my punishment. You understand me now, and you will let me go.
I demand my release!"

Clasping her jeweled hands together in pretended despair, she exclaimed:

"But, good Heaven! _mon ami_, I can not let you be so reckless. Think a
moment what will happen if they take you into custody. If the man dies,
you may be--hung!"

"I take all the risk; only show me the way out of my hated prison!"
he exclaimed, impatiently; and, with sudden passion, Mme. Lorraine
answered, boldly:

"Then, by Heaven, I will not! There is but one way by which you can
ever leave this room, whose existence is known to no human being but
Mima, myself, and you."

She saw him grow deathly pale to the roots of his hair, as he asked,
with pretended coolness:

"And that way, my darling jailer?"

With something like a blush struggling through the cosmetics that
covered her face, she replied firmly, although in a low voice:

"As my husband."

There was an awkward silence; the man was blushing for her; the
dark-red flush went up to the roots of his hair; she saw it, and bit
her lips. At last he said, with cool disdain:

"You have already a husband in an insane asylum."

She interrupted, eagerly:

"No, no--not my husband. I am free--that is, I was divorced by law from
him years ago."

She came nearer; she flung herself, with a rustle of silk and heavy
waft of patchouli, down by his side on the sofa. Looking up into his
face with burning eyes, she exclaimed, wildly:

"Do not look so coldly and scornfully upon me! Since you came to
New Orleans, you have changed all my life. I never loved before. I
married Monsieur Lorraine for wealth and position, without a single
heart-throb for the man. But you I love, you I have sworn to win. What
is there unreasonable about it, that your eyes flash so proudly? You
are handsome, it is true, but I also am beautiful. You are gifted, but
you are poor, while I am rolling in wealth. I can take you from your
drudging life and make your existence a dream of luxury and ease. That
is generous, is it not? But you have bewitched me; you have changed all
my nature; you have taught me to love."

"I never tried to do so," he replied, with unmoved coldness.

"Cold-hearted Yankee! have you no feeling, no pity?" she demanded,
reproachfully. "Look at me fairly," plucking impatiently at his sleeve.
"Am I not fair enough to teach you to love me?"

"No," he answered, curtly, shrinking from her touch, but looking
straight into her impassioned eyes with cold, unmoved gray orbs.

"Perhaps you already love some one else?" she burst forth, jealously.

"No," in a cold, incisive voice.

A low laugh of triumph broke from her, and she exclaimed:

"Then I will not give you up. You shall be my husband."

He gave her an angry stare, but she continued, unheeding:

"To-night I leave New Orleans with my servant Mima. I have my reasons
for this step. _N'importe_; they concern not you. I have made up my
mind to be your wife, to bear your name, to go home with you to Boston.
If you say the word, a priest shall be brought within the hour to make
us one. Then we can escape together to-night and fly this fatal city
which now holds imminent danger for you. Do you consent?"

He looked with his cold, disconcerting gaze full into her eyes.

"What if I refuse?" he queried.

"You are a Yankee all over--you answer one question with another," she
said, with a faint, mirthless laugh. "But my alternative is so bitter
I shrink from naming it. Tell me, are you going to make me your loving
wife?"

"I would die first!" he responded, with passionate emphasis.

She looked up at him, pale with wrath and mortification, and hissed,
angrily:

"You have chosen well, for it will come to that--to--to death!"

"You would murder me?" he exclaimed, with a start; and she answered,
defiantly:

"If you can not be mine, no one else shall ever have your love or your
name. If you persist in refusing my generous offer, I shall go away
from here with Mima to-night; but I shall leave you in this cellar to
starve and to die, and to molder into dust until the story of your
mysterious disappearance that night has been forgotten of men."

"You could not be so inhuman!" he uttered, with paling lips.

"I can, and I will," laughing mockingly. "Take your choice now,
monsieur--my time is limited. Shall it be love--or--death?"

With ineffable scorn, although his handsome features had waned to a
marble pallor, he replied, in a voice of proud disdain:

"Such love--the love of a guilty, wicked woman like you, Madame
Lorraine--leaves one no choice but death!"



CHAPTER XIX.


He never forgot the glare of rage the angry woman fixed upon him for a
moment.

Her eyes fairly blazed as she hissed, vindictively:

"You have made your choice, and mine is the last human face you will
look upon. A few days of isolation in this dreary chamber, without food
or drink, and you will go mad with horror and die of starvation. Adieu,
monsieur. I wish you _bon voyage_ to Hades!"

She made him a mocking courtesy, and swept to the door, tearing it
open with such impetuous haste that the listener outside had no time
to step aside, only to spring up wildly and confront the angry woman,
who immediately uttered a shriek of horror and fled up the narrow
stair-way, disappearing through the secret door in an incredibly short
space of time.

In the darkness of the narrow passage she had taken the pale-faced,
wild-eyed girl for a visitant from the other world, and had fled in
fear and terror from the supposed ghostly presence.

In her terror she had forgotten to shut the door upon Van Zandt, and
with starting eyes he witnessed the strange scene. For an instant he
fancied, like Mme. Lorraine, that it was a spirit standing there in the
gloom of the narrow passage, with face and form like that of the dead
little Mlle. Nobody. Then reason came to his aid. He sprung from the
sofa, and just as the secret door shut behind the frightened madame, he
caught the girl's cold hand and drew her into the room.

"Oh, my little ma'amselle! So that wicked woman lied when she told me
that you were dead!" he exclaimed.

She answered, vivaciously:

"No; for I have been dead and buried since I saw you, Monsieur Van
Zandt. Don't you see that Madame Lorraine took me for a ghost? It was
very fortunate for me, was it not?" and soft, sweet trills of laughter
bubbled over her lips.

In her joy at finding him again, she forgot hunger, fear, and weariness.

And in her excitement and exhilaration she rapidly poured out all that
had happened to her since that night, nearly two weeks ago, when he and
Carmontelle had so ably prevented her abduction by Remond.

He listened in deepest interest; and if Mme. Lorraine could have seen
the joy that sparkled in his expressive eyes, she would have felt like
plunging a dagger into the white breast of the girl who had brought
that joy there by her return, as it were, from the dead.

He laughed with her at the idea of Mme. Lorraine having fooled herself
so cleverly in imagining Little Nobody a ghost.

"But you must not call me Little Nobody any longer. I am Marie now,"
she said, brightly.

"It is a sweet, pretty name," he replied; "but I wish I had been
permitted to choose your name. It should have been something
else--something unique, like yourself."

She did not know what the word unique meant. She looked at him
curiously.

"What would you have called me?" she queried.

"Perhaps I will tell you some day," he replied, with an odd little
sigh; and then he changed the subject by telling her how glad he was
that she had been saved from death, and how thankful that she had come
to save him from the tortures of death by starvation.

The dark eyes sparkled with eager joy.

"Ah, how pleasant it is to have a friend!" she said, naïvely. "First
you saved me, now I am going to save you. I heard everything she said
to you. Oh, how cruel and wicked she is! And it must be dreadful,"
shuddering, "to starve! I can fancy some of its horrors, for, do you
know, Monsieur Van Zandt, I am very hungry now? I have had no supper
nor breakfast."

"Poor child!" he exclaimed, and glanced at a covered waiter on a stand
that contained the remains of his late breakfast. He drew off the
dainty napkin, and she saw delicate rolls, broiled chicken, cold ham,
preserves, fresh strawberries, chocolate and coffee, the whole flanked
by a bottle of sherry.

"I had no appetite for my breakfast, and Mima did not come back to
remove the tray," he said. "Dare I offer you the remains of the repast?
The chocolate is cold, but I drank none of it; I preferred coffee.
Likewise, the broiled chicken is untouched--in fact, I eat nothing but
a roll."

"You shall see that I will do more justice to the fare than that," she
laughed; and sitting down by the tray, she made a substantial meal,
after which she declared herself much strengthened.

It was very pleasant to have this bright, hopeful young creature
with him, in lieu of the loneliness and the cruel fate to which Mme.
Lorraine had doomed him. He listened with interest to her pretty plans
for his release. She told him how, in her drugged sleep, she had beheld
him in this very room, attended by the big, ugly, but skillful Mima.

"Heaven must have sent you that vision," he said, with fervent
gratitude. "Oh, how glad I am that I shall go free again into the
world! I have sweet, young sisters little older than you, my child, who
would grieve for me were I to die like this. Are you sure, quite sure,
that you possess the secret of the opening of the hidden door?"

Marie started.

"It must be the same as that of the outside--must it not, monsieur?"
she queried, with a confident air.

"I am not sure, but I hope it is," he replied, with a sudden dawning
anxiety.

"I will go and see at once," she exclaimed, starting toward the door.

"No, no," he said, and held her back.

"But why?" she asked, turning on him her pretty, puzzled face.

With a smile, he answered:

"Do you not see that it would not be safe to venture to open the door
while our enemies remain in the house? We must wait patiently here
until night--until they are gone away. Then we shall be able to effect
our escape unmolested."

He spoke more cheerfully than he felt. A strange dread was upon him.
What if they should not be able to open the door at the head of the
cellar stair-way?

What if he were indeed hopelessly immured within this prison, the life
of the girl forfeited to the bravery and daring that had led her to
seek and save him?

"Oh, I could bear it like a man, alone, but for her to perish under the
slow agony of starvation--Heaven forbid it!" he groaned, but breathed
not a word of his fears to the girl who was full of hope and eager
expectancy, looking eagerly forward to the hour of their release.

In spite of his anxiety, he spent a not unpleasant day in the society
of Marie. She was so lovely and so unique, in her total ignorance
of the world, that she had a subtle charm for the man inured to the
conventionalities of society. Then, too, she was constantly exciting
his wonder by the general correctness of her language, although he
knew that she was totally uneducated. But he easily accounted for this
by recalling the fact that she had been brought up in constant contact
with Mme. Lorraine and her visitors, and so unconsciously acquired the
habit of correct speaking.

"What a contrast she is to that wicked woman!" he thought, looking
admiringly at the eager, earnest, mobile face, so innocently frank, all
the feelings of her pure soul mirrored in her limpid eyes. Recalling
madame's story that the girl was low-born, he frowned, and said angrily
to himself:

"I do not believe it. She has nothing low about her. There is some
mystery about her origin, and Madame Lorraine does not choose to reveal
it, that is all."

Certainly, no girl born with the blood of a hundred earls in her veins
could have had better instincts or more innate refinement than this
Little Nobody. She was innocently frank, but she was also charmingly
shy and modest. She was child and woman exquisitely blended:

    "Standing with reluctant feet
     Where the brook and river meet,
     Womanhood and childhood flee."

Although she had been overjoyed at finding the reported dead man alive,
she had been very undemonstrative in her joy. She had not offered him a
single caress, such as one so young might have done; she had not even
seated herself near him. She contented herself with looking at him
across the breadth of the room, not as one afraid, but with a perfectly
natural reserve, and she preserved this frank, unembarrassed demeanor
throughout the whole day, which did not seem long to either, although
dinner and supper were among the things that were not. Neither one
remembered it, neither one was conscious of any sensation of hunger.

"But how are we to know when night comes? It is always night down
here," he said.

"It was about midday when I followed Madame Lorraine down here. Have
you a watch?" she asked.

"Yes; and I have never permitted it to run down since I came here. It
is now twenty minutes to four o'clock," he said.

"Then it is now afternoon. By and by, when the watch tells us it is
nightfall, I will creep up the steps and listen for sounds in the hall.
When I hear them go away, it will be the signal for us to open the
secret door and escape," she said.

At eight o'clock, with her ear pressed against the secret paneled door,
she heard mistress and maid going through the hall to the front door.
It opened and shut. Marie heard distinctly the loud click of the key
in the lock outside. They had gone, leaving their victim to perish, as
they thought, by the slow pangs of starvation.

Van Zandt was close by her side; she turned to him eagerly.

"I have been feeling the door in the dark for a knob like that on the
outside, but I can not find it," she said. "The surface seems perfectly
smooth, not carved as on the outside. Will you bring the lamp,
monsieur, and let us search for it?"

With a sinking heart, he obeyed her request, detaching the
swinging-lamp from its bronze frame and taking it up the dark stair-way
in his hand. Even then, in his eager anxiety, his artistic eye took
note of the gleam of the light on the girl's picturesque masses of
red-gold hair, as it waved in silken luxuriance over her shoulders.



CHAPTER XX.


Marie did not see Van Zandt's eyes looking admiringly at her beautiful
hair.

She was gazing with eager eyes at the narrow door that had shut her in
with him whom she had dared so much to find and save.

She saw with some dismay that its inner surface was just what it had
appeared when she had moved her fingers over it in the dark--perfectly
smooth, without seam, knob, or lock, and no apparent way of moving it
from its place.

Van Zandt gave her the lamp to hold, and put his shoulder to the
immovable door, but his whole strength availed nothing against its grim
solidity.

Then he spent an anxious hour trying the steps and the sides of the
door in an effort to find its mysterious open sesame.

Not an iota of success rewarded his frantic efforts.

But he would not give way to despair.

"I shall have to cut our way out," he said. "But, as I have no hatchet,
it will be slow work with my jack-knife. You may have to hold that lamp
for hours, ma'amselle, while I whittle a hole in the door big enough
for you to creep through."

"That is nothing. I shall not be tired," she replied, bravely.

But she was not called upon for this exhibition of patience.

The first few strokes of the knife revealed to him the appalling fact
that the inside of the door was not of wood, but iron--iron so heavily
coated with thick paint that it had cleverly deceived the superficial
touch.

Then indeed she caught a gleam of trouble in his eyes--trouble that was
almost despair. Her own face paled, and a sigh of dismay escaped her
lips.

When he heard it, he forced a smile.

"Do not be frightened; we will find some other way," he said.

And they went back to the room and searched the walls carefully to
see if there was any weak spot by which they might effect an escape.
Windows there were none, and the ventilation of the room had been
cleverly effected by pipes that were let into the ceiling above. The
walls around were damp and cool, showing that they were built into
the earth; but they were thick and heavy, and Van Zandt's jack-knife
made no impression on the heavy oaken planks beneath the handsome
wall-papering.

Two hours were spent in this vain quest for means of egress from their
prison, and drops of dew beaded the young man's face. He was weak from
his illness and from the fast that had lasted all day, and sat down at
last to rest and to think what he should do next.

"Oh, how tired and weak you must be! I am so sorry I eat your
breakfast! I shouldn't have done so, but I thought we should get out of
here directly!" exclaimed the girl, regretfully.

She brought him the wine and poured out a glass, which she forced him
to taste. It ran warmly through his veins, and courage returned to him
again.

"Now, no more for me," he said, pressing back the little hand that
offered the second glass. "Drink that yourself ma'amselle, and we must
keep the rest for you, for we can not tell how long it may be before we
get out of this."

"I do not need it; I am strong enough without it," she replied, and
replaced the untouched glass on the stand. Then she saw him looking at
her with a hopeful gleam in his eyes.

"I have a new thought," he said. "Perhaps if we could make ourselves
heard from down here, some one might come to our relief. Let us halloo,
ma'amselle, with all our might."

It would have been ludicrous if it had not been so pitiful to hear them
shouting in concert at the top of their voices. Indeed, they paused
now and then to look at each other with laughing eyes, and to pant
with exhaustion from their efforts, but the shouting was kept up at
intervals until Van Zandt's watch recorded the hour of midnight.

Then he said, wearily:

"There is no help for it. We shall have to pass the night here, I
suppose."

He opened the door and began to push his sofa out into the narrow
little passage.

"What are you going to do?" Marie asked him, with large eyes of wonder.

"I am simply converting this passage into a temporary bedroom for
myself," he answered. "Good-night, Ma'amselle Marie; I leave you my
room and bed. Lie down and rest, and in the morning we will try to
devise some new plan for our escape."

He opened and shut the door, and Marie was alone. She threw herself
wearily on the luxurious bed, and in spite of hunger and thirst and
terror, slept heavily for hours.

When she awakened, she felt sure that day must be far advanced. She
found a large pitcher of water and poured out some into a basin and
bathed her face and hands. Then she peeped out into the dark passage
for Van Zandt.

He was sitting up composedly on his sofa, as if he had been awake for
hours.

"Oh, dear, monsieur, I have kept you out in the dark for hours! Come
in," she exclaimed; and he accepted the invitation with alacrity,
pushing in his convenient sofa before him.

Laughingly, he said:

"I began to think you were a second Rip Van Winkle, Ma'amselle Marie;"
and, holding out his watch to her, she saw that it was near the middle
of the day.

"Oh, how lazy I have been! Forgive me!" she cried, vexed with herself.
"You must have been very tired waiting out there in the dark?"

"No, for I was at work trying to find the secret spring of the iron
door, but I only wasted my time and strength," he replied, sadly.

"Oh, what are we going to do?" she burst out, in sudden terror.

"That is what I was asking myself at intervals all through the night,"
said Eliot Van Zandt. "Oh, my child--my brave little girl! what would I
not give if only you had not followed Madame Lorraine into this fatal
prison! I could suffer alone with a man's fortitude, but for you to
share my fate is too dreadful!"

His voice broke and his eyes grew strangely dim. She answered, with
pretty gravity:

"It was through your goodness to me that you were first betrayed into
her power; and if you have to suffer for it, I want to suffer, too.
We are friends, you know. But we must not give up hope yet. I am more
sorry than ever that I eat your breakfast; but take a little of the
wine, and it will strengthen you."

"After you," he replied, seeing that she would not be satisfied without
seeing him take some. He held the glass to her lips, and she swallowed
a few drops under protest. He went through the same form, saying to
himself that he must save it all for her, for there was nothing else
between her and utter starvation.

"What shall we do next? Halloo again?" she asked, with a smile.

"I do not believe my lungs are strong enough to go over that ordeal
again. The wound in my breast is not quite healed over yet," he said.
"But suppose we sing instead?"

"I do not know how to sing," she answered.

"Very well; I shall have to do all the singing," he replied,
good-humoredly. "And, do you know, I think it is a rather good idea to
sing, for who knows but it may penetrate to the street, and if it be
known that Madame Lorraine be gone away, curiosity may lead some one to
investigate into the cause of the mysterious noise, and then we may be
found."

"Oh, how clever you are! Do begin at once!" she exclaimed, with a
hopeful light in her dark eyes.

"I will," he replied; and somehow the first song that came to his mind
was a sweet, sad love song he had been used to sing with his fair young
sisters in the far-off Northern home he loved so well:

    "In days of old, when knights were bold,
       And barons held their sway,
     A warrior bold, with spurs of gold,
       Sung merrily his lay:
    'My love is young and fair,
     My love hath golden hair,
       And eyes so bright and heart so true
     That none with her compare;
     So what care I, tho' death be nigh,
     I'll live for love or die!'

    "So this brave knight, in armor bright,
       Went gayly to the fray;
     He fought the fight, but ere the night
       His soul had passed away.
     The plighted ring he wore
     Was crushed and wet with gore;
       Yet ere he died he bravely cried:
    'I've kept the vow I swore;
     So what care I, tho' death be nigh,
     I've fought for love, and die--
     For love I die!'"

The girl's beautiful eyes looked at the singer, dark and grave with the
strange emotions swelling at her heart. She had heard Mme. Lorraine
and the men from the Jockey Club sing their best, but it had not
affected her like this. A strange, sweet awe stole over her, mixed
with a buoyancy and lightness that was thrilling and yet solemn. With
the strange, new sensation there came to her a sudden memory of the
chapel at Le Bon Berger, and the soft, murmuring voices of the nuns at
prayer. She felt like praying.

He looked at her curiously, and she said, with child-like directness:

"I can not sing, but the nuns at the convent taught me how to pray. I
will pray to the good God, and perhaps He will hear me and save us."

The next minute she had thrown herself down by a chair, bowed her
golden head on her hands, and a low, soft murmur of prayer filled the
room. He hesitated a moment, then went and knelt down by her side,
and his deeper, stronger voice filled the room with a strong, manly
petition for help and pity.

Then he did not feel like singing again for awhile, so sweet and deep
an awe pervaded his mind. Marie sat opposite, her tiny hands folded in
her lap, a lovely seriousness on her piquant face.

By and by he sung again, but this time it was one of the solemn chants,
such as might be heard in the choirs of the old cathedrals.

The day wore on like this, and the night fell again, with no sign that
the persistent singing had attracted any attention from the outer world.

Sadly enough, and with many grim forebodings, Van Zandt wheeled his
sofa again into the narrow passage for his night's rest. As he bid her
good-night, Marie said, sadly:

"The oil is getting low in the lamp. I will extinguish it to-night if
you have a match to light it in the morning."

He was fortunate enough to find a little match-case in his pocket
filled with matches that he carried for lighting his cigars; so Marie
extinguished the lamp until morning, and they turned on a very dim
light that day, for they feared that they should soon be left in total
darkness. To-day, also, the last of the wine was used, Marie insisting
that they should share alike, for both began to feel the deathly
weakness of hunger paralyzing their energies. The singing at intervals
was still persevered in, although Van Zandt's voice began to fail
strangely from the weakness of hunger and illness. Hope failed him,
too, as this, the third day of their mutual imprisonment waned to a
close, and he regretted bitterly that he had allowed Marie to force him
to take a share of the precious sherry.

Faint and fainter waxed the light, and the two victims of Mme.
Lorraine's malignity began to realize that the horrors of Cimmerian
darkness were about to be added to those of starvation and isolation.

"Sing something," said Marie, from the depths of the arm-chair where
she was resting.

He fancied that her voice sounded strange and faint, and his heart sunk
heavily. He wished again that the poor child had never ventured into
this horrible trap from which there seemed to be no release but death.
But he had already wished it a hundred times before--alas, to no avail!

"Sing," she murmured again, sadly. "See, the light is almost gone, but
it will not seem so dreary when you sing."

He said to himself that he would be willing to sing until the last
breath left his lips, could he but lighten one pang of the suffering
girl whose devotion to him had brought down such a cruel fate upon her
head.

So, although his throat was sore, his head dizzy, and his heart like
lead in his breast, he sung feebly, but bravely, a song that yesterday
she had said she liked. It was sweet; but sad. He had no heart for gay
ones now:

    "Out in the country, close to the road-side,
       One little daisy there chanced to grow;
     It was so happy there in the sunshine--
       No one the daisy's joy could know;
     Watching the white clouds, hearing a song there,
       List'ning in wonder all day long.
    'Oh,' said the daisy, 'had I a song-voice,
       Yonder forever I'd send my song.'

    "It was a lark that sung in the heaven,
       While all the world stood still to hear,
     Many a maiden looked from her knitting,
       And in her heart there crept a tear.
     Down came the lark and sung to the daisy,
       Sung to it only songs of love;
     Till in the twilight slumbered the daisy,
       Turning its sweet face to heaven above.

    "Ah! for the morrow bringeth such sorrow,
       Captured the lark, and life grew dim,
     There, too, the daisy, torn from the way-side,
       Prisoned and dying, wept for him.
     Once more the lark sung; fainter his voice grew;
       Her little song was hushed and o'er;
     Two little lives gone out of the sunshine,
       Out of this bright world for evermore."

He paused and looked at her in the dim light. The young face was very
pale, the dark eyes hollow with purple rings around them.

"I would give the world, were it mine, for food for this dying child!"
he thought, in bitter anguish.

With a languid smile and in childish innocence, she said:

"I like your little song, Monsieur Van Zandt. Do you know, I think it
suits us two? You are the lark, and I the little daisy. And--and--we
need not hope any longer, I am afraid. We will soon be gone out of
life, like the lark and the little daisy."

The last words were so faint as to be scarcely audible. Her eyes had
closed while she uttered them, and now the golden head fell languidly
against the back of her chair.

With a cry of alarm, Eliot Van Zandt sprung to her side, and
discovered, to his dismay, that she was quite unconscious.



CHAPTER XXI.


"Unconscious, and not a drop of wine or water with which to revive
her--not even a breath of fresh air, though the whole world is so full
of it!" he murmured, in despair.

He flew to the water-pitcher in a wild hope, and found there a few
spoonfuls which he had begged her to drink in the morning. She had
pretended to do so, but here it was untouched. So terrible was his own
thirst that his heart leaped at sight of it, but not for worlds would
he have appropriated even one small drop from his companion in misery.

Hastily pouring it into a glass, he pressed it against her lips,
moistening them gently until they parted, and a few drops of the
precious fluid passed between them and down her parched throat. A sigh
heaved her breast, and her eyes unclosed.

Eliot Van Zandt cried out in joy and relief, and laying her head back
against his arm, he gently forced her to swallow the remainder of the
water. It acted like a charm, for withdrawing her head from his arm,
she sat upright, and said, in a weak voice:

"I kept the water for you; I did not want to drink it."

"Nonsense, child; I am strong, and did not need it," lightly. "But do
you feel better now?"

"Much better; but I think I will lie down, monsieur, I feel so tired.
Is it bed-time yet?" trying to smile.

He looked at his watch by the light that was so feeble now that he
could scarcely see the hands moving across its face.

"Yes, it is bed-time. It is past ten o'clock," he said; then, with
hesitation: "Are you not too sick for me to leave you, child? I can sit
here and watch you while you sleep."

Within himself he thought sadly that the conventionalities of the world
were out of place now, when both were hovering on the border of the
Unknown Land. Why not sit beside the dying girl and soothe her last sad
hours?

But with a pensive smile she answered:

"No; go to your rest, dear friend. I shall do very well alone, but if I
feel ill again I will call you."

Thus dismissed, he wheeled his sofa, as usual, into the dark and gloomy
little passage outside the door. Then, lingering to press the little
hand and say good-night more tenderly than ever in the presentiment
that weighed upon him, she startled him by a shrill, frightened cry:

"Oh!"

The light had given one expiring flare and gone out, leaving them in
darkness.

"Are you afraid? Shall I leave my door ajar?" he asked, gently.

"No, no," she answered, quickly.

"Very well, then; but I shall not go to sleep. I shall lie awake to
guard you from any fancied danger," he said; and sighed, knowing that
there was nothing to fear save the grim, gaunt hunger-wolf.

He struck a match that he might smile once more, sadly but tenderly,
into the pale, patient face. She smiled bravely in return.

"My good friend, good-night," she said gently; and with a sigh he left
her to hold a patient, wakeful vigil outside her door.

Hours passed without a sound from the dark, inner chamber, where Marie
lay huddled among the pillows in feverish sleep. At last, dizziness
and weariness fairly conquered him; his head drooped to the arm of the
sofa, and he, too, slept.

It seemed scarce a minute since his heavy eyes had shut before he
started up with a confused cry. Had some one called his name?

Some sort of a sound certainly echoed in his ears; it resolved itself
into _her_ voice.

Marie's voice calling out loud and strange and incessant, with
incoherent words. He tore open the door wildly and struck one of his
precious matches.

She lay there among the pillows, with vacant, wide-open eyes fixed on
the ceiling, babbling in wild delirium of cool springs and fountains,
of summer showers, of falling dew, her parched lips panting with fever.

"Oh, my God! if the world were mine, I would give it for one draught of
water for my suffering little darling!" he cried aloud, with the agony
of a man's heart driven to bay.

The dim flame of the match died into darkness again, and he stood by
the bed, holding her hot little hand in his, listening in agony to her
delirious ravings.

"This is the cruelest hour of my life!" he muttered. "Death, when it
comes, will not be half so bitter."

By the aid of another match he looked at his watch. It was five
o'clock, and outside he knew that the day was near its dawn; but within
the chamber where he watched by the side of the dying girl all was
thick darkness and gloom, and his stock of matches was running so low
that he dared not light one as often as he wished.

Agonized thoughts kept him grim company while he stood listening to her
ravings for water to cool her poor parched tongue and lips.

Soon she would be dead, and her harrowing sufferings all over. Then
he would be alone with the dead girl until death mercifully came to
his release. Here they would lie, uncoffined and unburied for years,
moldering into dust, their cruel fate forever hidden from men. In his
far-off home his sisters would grieve for him awhile, then he would be
forgotten.

The tiny flame of another match flared into the air at six o'clock.
Her ravings had ceased, the hot flush had left her face, the little
palms were cool again. She lay with wide-open eyes upon the pillow,
breathing faintly--so faintly that he looked for every breath to be her
last.

In the anguish of that thought, a wild temptation came to him.
Somewhere he had read that debilitated invalids were strengthened
and restored to health by drinking the fresh, warm blood of newly
slaughtered beeves.

He tore open the blade of his knife and desperately punctured a vein in
his arm. The hot, red blood spurted like a fountain, and he caught it
in the wine-glass until it was full.

A handkerchief bound tightly about his arm stopped the bleeding of the
wound, and, with some difficulty in the darkness, and shuddering with
weakness and emotion, he lifted Marie's head on his arm and pressed the
glass to her lips.



CHAPTER XXII.


He scarcely dared hope that she would have enough strength to swallow
his strange medicine, but, to his joy, the dry lips parted and clung to
the glass until every drop of the liquid had been drained, then, with a
long sigh of relief, her head fell back, and he laid it gently on the
pillow.

"Have I revived her, or--killed her?" he muttered, in a fright.

Another match. If it had been the last one, he must have one glimpse of
her face now.

It lay pale, with shut eyes, and apparently lifeless, on the white
pillow. He felt her pulse hurriedly. A feeble, thread-like pulsation
assured him that life still lingered. He sat down sorrowfully in a
chair by the bed, holding the pulse beneath his finger, waiting sadly
for the last.

Seven o'clock by the light of the last match, and the pulse still
throbbed softly, and, he almost dared to hope, more strongly.

"What does it mean? Has my experiment indeed given her a few more hours
of life?" he wondered, gladly.

It seemed so, for the thread-like pulse gradually grew stronger, and
bending down his head, he caught a faint but regular breathing.

"Marie," he said, softly, and a quickened breath that was almost a gasp
assured him that she heard. "I am here by your side," he went on. "It
is dark, and I have used all the matches, so I can not watch your face
to see if you are better. Can you speak to me, dear?"

"Monsieur," she uttered, faintly, and his heart leaped with joy at the
sound.

"You are better," he exclaimed, and she murmured a faint:

"Yes."

Then she seemed to fall asleep. He fought bravely against the deathly
weakness that was stealing over him. A passionate prayer was in his
heart:

"Lord, send us help before it is too late!"

Hours seemed to pass while he sat there in a strange half-stupor that
most likely would merge into delirium, as hers had done. Oh, the
gnawings of hunger, the pangs of thirst, how terrible they were!

"Yet, thank Heaven, I have lightened hers for a little while by the
life-fluid I freely gave!" he muttered.

Suddenly, in the darkness, a little groping hand fell on his face.

"Are you there still?" asked Marie's voice, weak but clear.

"I am here still," he answered, taking the hand again in his own. The
pulse was much better now. She continued, softly: "I feel stronger, but
I was surely dying when you gave me the sweet, warm milk to drink. It
put new life in my veins, but--" she paused as if a new thought had
struck her mind.

"Well?" he said, gently, and she answered:

"I can not imagine where you found the milk. I hope you had some, too.
It is so reviving. Did you?"

"Yes, plenty," he replied, with a shudder, and she said:

"I am so glad. But how dreary it is all in the dark! Sing again,
please."

It had seemed to him a minute ago that he was almost too weak to speak,
but he made a great effort to please her, although he knew that it
would exhaust his strength all the sooner. He sung with all the power
that remained in his weak lungs. In the darkness and the gloom, the
dear old hymn, learned at his mother's knee in childhood, sounded
sweetly solemn:

    "Abide with me! Fast falls the eventide,
    The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;
    When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
    Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me!

    "Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes,
    Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies;
    Heaven's morning breaks, and earth's vain--"

There was a sudden, swift break in the voice that soared upward to
the pitying heavens--his strength had not given out, but something
wonderful had happened.

From over their heads, and seeming to come through the small pipe
provided to ventilate their darksome prison, had come the distinct
sound of a human voice.

"Halloo!"



CHAPTER XXIII.


In almost the last hour, when hope had deserted them, and they hourly
expected death, succor had arrived. Van Zandt's singing had attracted
attention at last, and now help was at hand.

When that ringing halloo came down the ventilating pipe, he almost
swooned with the suddenness of his joy and relief; and it was Marie,
who, with a sudden accession of frantic joy, screamed shrilly back:

"Halloo!"

A voice came quickly back--a familiar voice:

"Who is down there?"

This time Van Zandt answered:

"Two prisoners--Eliot Van Zandt and a lady. We are starving, dying! For
God's sake, cut a hole quickly through the floor, and come to our aid!"

"Ay, ay!" said a hearty voice that belonged to none other than Pierre
Carmontelle; and then the iron will that had sustained Van Zandt
through those four dreadful days gave way, and he fell in a heavy swoon
to the floor.

Marie could only moan helplessly:

"Hurry, hurry! he has fallen down. I fear he is dead!"

With all the haste that several eager men could make, it was almost
half an hour before a square opening appeared in the ceiling large
enough to admit a man's body. Then a faint light streamed into the dark
underground chamber, fairly dazzling Marie's weak eyes.

Several eager pairs of eyes looked down, but they could detect nothing
yet, so intense was the gloom below.

"It is dark as Erebus," said a voice--Markham's, Marie thought. "Van
Zandt, where are you?"

Marie answered, with a sob:

"He is down on the floor, but he is very still, and I fear he is dead
from starvation."

A lantern at the end of a rope came quickly down the aperture. A man's
body followed it quickly--Carmontelle!

He came up to the bedside and looked with amazement into the wan, sweet
face of the girl.

"_Mon Dieu_, it is Little Nobody! But what does it mean? I thought you
dead. I saw you entombed!"

But he had to wait for his answer, for Marie very provokingly fainted
dead away, and he had to halloo to Markham above for water and wine.

"I think fresh air would do better than either just now," was the
reply. "_Peste_! what a hot, musty smell comes up that hole! Take her
in your arms, Carmontelle, stand on a chair, and hand her up to me."

As the ceiling was low, this plan was effected without much difficulty;
and Markham took the slight figure in his arms and carried her out to
the cool, green garden, where the last beams of sunset were glinting on
the shining leaves of the orange-trees and the tinkling waters of the
fountains. The cool air and the refreshing water soon brought her back
to life and hope again.

But Van Zandt was longer in recovering. He had kept up the longer, but
his collapse, when it came, had been more complete. They found that the
wound on his breast was still unhealed, and that there was a mysterious
fresh wound upon his arm. The bandage had been knocked off in his fall,
and the blood was pouring out in a crimson tide.

They stanched the wound, and at last brought him around so that, with
the aid of three men, he could be hoisted through the hole in the wall.
He was too weak to answer questions at first, and it was not until the
next day that they learned the particulars of his imprisonment by Mme.
Lorraine.

They were inclined to chaff him considerably over the madame's
fatal _penchant_ for his handsome face, and he bore it with all the
equanimity he could. Indeed, their mirth seemed pleasant, although
directed against himself, after those four solemn days in that dark,
underground prison.

But interesting as they found his romantic story, it was tame beside
that of Little Nobody, who, having had a good night's sleep, nourishing
food, and a good woman to watch and soothe her restless slumbers, was
so much refreshed by the next morning that she could tell her strange
story with far more vivacity than could Van Zandt, whose lungs, from
his constant singing and hallooing without food for four days, had
terribly taxed his strength and endurance.

"If you had come even one hour later, I fear it would have been too
late for me," he said, with a somber look in his gray eyes.

But it was owing to his persistent singing that he had been rescued
at last, for, although Carmontelle had never given up the search for
him, he had not dreamed that the wounded man was concealed in madame's
house, although it was believed that she was cognizant of his fate.

"And this is how we chanced to find you," he said. "It was determined
to arrest Madame Lorraine upon suspicion of complicity with Remond
in making away with you. Markham and I volunteered to come with the
officers to serve the warrant. As repeated ringings elicited no
response, we thought something was wrong, and forced an entrance."

"And then?" Van Zandt queried, curiously.

"Oh, then we found not a living soul in the house, and were in a
little, stuffy back room, like a servants' bedroom, debating what to
do next, when the sound of your unearthly singing made the hair rise
upon our heads in terror. We thought at first that it was something
supernatural, it sounded so sweet and strange, coming, as it seemed,
from the bowels of the earth, but presently Markham said that Van Zandt
was a fine singer, and a wild suspicion came to me. I looked about and
found a pipe fixed cleverly into the wall to secure ventilation, as it
seemed to me, to some cellar-like apartment. I put my mouth to the hole
and hallooed down it as loud as I could."

"And thereby saved two lives that were almost ended. How can I ever
thank you and bless you enough, Carmontelle!" Van Zandt exclaimed, with
emotion.



CHAPTER XXIV.


Mme. Lorraine would have been chagrined indeed could she but have known
what was transpiring in the house she had quitted so precipitately upon
finding out that she was in danger of arrest upon suspicion of knowing
the whereabouts of Eliot Van Zandt.

The despised Little Nobody was installed in madame's own luxurious
chamber, with a capable elderly woman in attendance. Eliot Van Zandt
occupied another room, equally elegant, and Carmontelle and Markham
had also installed themselves temporarily in a guest-chamber. In
the kitchen a temporary cook held sway until such time as the young
journalist could be moved to his hotel. Just now he was prostrated on
a bed of sickness, having suffered a relapse from the reopening of his
wound through his exertions in hallooing and singing.

The cause of the slight wound upon his arm, which they had found
freshly bleeding, he steadily declined to explain.

"It is a mere nothing--the scratch of a pen," he said, carelessly, and
indeed it very soon healed. The wound on his breast was doing nicely,
too, and he began to talk of leaving for home very soon--as soon as he
was able to travel.

Carmontelle had written to his anxious sisters to calm their uneasy
minds, and one day--it was a week after that tragic evening when he had
rescued the prisoners--he held a very serious conversation with his
friend over the subject of Little Nobody's future.

Van Zandt had sat up in an easy-chair that day for the first time, and
Marie had come in to see him. She looked bright and well again, and the
young man shuddered as he thought how near she had been to death that
night in the underground prison.

"But for my timely thought, my terrible experiment, she must have been
dead ere rescue came," he said to himself. "But she must never know.
Perhaps she would shrink from me in horror did she but know the truth."

Carmontelle had been very quiet while she remained in the room. He had
watched both narrowly. When she had gone, he said, gravely:

"Van Zandt, let us speak together as good men and true. Have you taken
any thought for the little ma'amselle's future?"

Van Zandt started and grew a shade paler. He scarcely understood this
abruptness, this seriousness.

"Her future?" he echoed, a little blankly. "I thought--I
understood--that it was all planned out that night when we saved her.
You were to educate her--afterward to make her your wife."

Carmontelle frowned, and said, sternly:

"Yes--but of course you understand that the plan is untenable now?"

He looked straight into Van Zandt's beautiful blue-gray eyes with such
a meaning expression that in a moment there rushed over the young man's
mind a comprehension of the truth. Flushing darkly, he exclaimed:

"Say no more. I understand you now," hoarsely; "you mean that--that
noble child is--is compromised by her imprisonment with me those four
long days?"

Carmontelle, with a fierce throb of jealousy at his heart, answered:

"Yes."

Then, after a moment's blank silence on both sides, he added, sighing
heavily:

"Such is the cruel way of the world. For myself, Van Zandt, I know you
are the soul of honor, chivalrous as the men of the South; and I can
pay you no higher compliment than this. For her, I know she is pure as
an angel. But--there is the cruel, carping world ready to point the
finger of scorn always, and I--warmly as I love the girl--I could not
have a bride of whom gossip could whisper even one blighting suspicion.
The Carmontelles are very proud of their unblemished honor. I must not
be the first to smirch it. I could have passed over her birth, her
namelessness, for I could have given her my own proud name, and lifted
her to my own station; but--this shadow from her misfortune in having
shared your imprisonment is too dark for me to bear. My hopes are in
ashes. Instead of being her husband, I must now claim the place of a
father or a brother."

It was a long speech for Carmontelle, who did not ordinarily deal
in long sentences. When it was finished he wiped the great drops of
moisture from his brow and waited for Van Zandt to speak.

He did not have to wait long.

"I understand you," the young man said, with apparent quietude.
"The generous child, by her nobility in coming to seek and to save
me, sacrificed her own future. I must--marry her--to appease the
proprieties."

With a quiver of pain and regret in his voice, Carmontelle said,
gravely:

"Yes."

"I am ready to make her that poor reparation for all that she
sacrificed for me," Van Zandt answered, instantly, and for a moment
their hands met in a firm, close grip. Then the Southerner said sadly:

"My God, there is no other way, or I could not give up the sweet hopes
that for a few hours delighted my soul. But we have talked it over at
the club--my friends and hers--and have all agreed that since the whole
affair was so widely known, there could be no other way out of it in
honor for that poor child than by marriage with you. Van Zandt, you
look strange! Do you take it so hard, then? Great Heaven! can it be
that you have some prior engagement?"

"I am free--except from the claims of two young sisters, and the
trammels of poverty," Van Zandt answered, quietly.

"Poverty, yes, I had thought of that; but she shall not be a burden to
you. I am rich, very rich. I will pay the poor child's dowry. I will
make it forty thousand dollars, and when I die she shall be my heiress."

"Stop!" Eliot Van Zandt said, with the first sternness he had shown.
"You mistake me, Carmontelle; I will take no dowry with my young bride,
save her own innocence and beauty."

"But I claim the right--"

"And I refuse to admit it."

And they looked stubbornly into each other's eyes.



CHAPTER XXV.


Then Van Zandt said, sternly:

"I will have no one say that I was paid to take the girl of my choice.
I am not rich, as you know, but I will toil harder now that I have such
an object in life. She shall not go shabby or hungry, I promise you."

His voice was so full of feeling, despite its sternness, that
Carmontelle was puzzled. He exclaimed:

"Your pride does you honor, Van Zandt. But--you said--the girl of your
choice. I do not understand!"

Van Zandt hesitated, then said reluctantly:

"Believe me, I do not want to make you feel your loss more keenly by
what I must now admit; but, Carmontelle, the reparation I must make
to Ma'amselle Marie is not such that I need money to condone the
sacrifice. I--I love her, although I have never dared own the truth to
my own heart until this hour."

Through the breast of the elder man there went a pang of jealous pain,
as he repeated, hoarsely:

"You love her?"

"Yes, since the first night I met her. But I scarcely dared own the
truth to my own heart. What had I, the poor journalist, to do with that
fair creature, whose beauty in itself was a rich dower? But now, when
fate itself has given her to me, I can only rejoice."

"Rejoice, yes, that is best--much best," Carmontelle said, after a
long, constrained pause. "It is best," he repeated again, more firmly.

"It was fate itself that gave her to me," Van Zandt said, solemnly; and
in a burst of emotion he made clear the mystery of the wounded arm that
had so puzzled his friend.

"She was dying, and I gave my own blood to save her life. It is my own
life that leaps through her veins, that sends the light to her eyes,
the color to her cheek. But it is my secret. She must never know."

"No, never; but by that noble sacrifice her life belongs to you, and I
can be unselfish enough, Van Zandt, in my own disappointment, to wish
that you may win her whole young heart!" Carmontelle exclaimed, lifted
out of all selfish regrets by this strange revelation.

And then they planned it all out before Van Zandt lay down to rest,
taking Marie's consent for granted--Marie, the simple, ignorant girl
who could not have told you to save her life what those two words, love
and marriage, meant.

She was as innocent as a babe over many things, poor Little Nobody!

And, to do Van Zandt justice, he revolted at the thought of taking her,
as it seemed, willy-nilly; but the world, the great wicked world, left
him, as Carmontelle said, no other way.

"I should have liked to woo and win my bride in the sweet old
fashion," he thought, regretfully; then, with a new idea: "And what
is there to hinder? The words of the marriage service will be almost
meaningless terms to her untutored mind. I will take no advantage of
the claims it will give me. I will hold her as sacred as an angel until
I shall win her heart as well as her hand. At home I will place her in
the school-room with my sisters. She shall have culture equal to her
beauty, and I will work for her and worship her in silence until the
child becomes a woman and her heart awakes from sleep."

The very next day he said to her gently:

"Ma'amselle Marie, I shall be going home to Boston in two more days."

She cried out regretfully:

"Oh, I am sorry; I am afraid I shall never see you any more!"

"Will you go with me, dear, and be my little wife?"

"I will go with you, yes; but--your wife--I do not understand," she
said, in a puzzled tone, just as he had expected she would.

"You would live with me always," he began. "You would belong to me, you
would bear my name, you would do as I wished you, perhaps, and--"

"Ah, your slave?" she interrupted, intelligently.

Serious as he felt, he could not forbear a laugh; but he said, gently:

"Not my slave, but my love, my darling, my treasure. I would never beat
you, nor scold you, nor make your life sad, as Madame Lorraine did. I
would be very kind to you always. Now, will you be my wife?"

She replied, with childish frankness:

"Yes, I will be your wife and go with you to your home. Then, perhaps,
I will understand better your word, 'wife.'"

He smiled and stooped to kiss her, but she drew back quickly, her
innate shyness taking alarm. He did not press her, only said to himself:

"My shy little wild bird, her heart is yet to win."

It seemed to him the strangest thing he had ever heard of, this taking
for a wife a young, untutored creature who actually did not understand
what the words love, marriage, and wife meant.

He told Carmontelle later of his thought. The Southerner was amused at
the ignorance of the lovely girl--amused and sorry in one breath, and
with a sigh of regret, he said:

"Happy is he who shall have the pleasure of teaching her the meaning of
those tender words."

It was arranged that the marriage should take place just prior to Van
Zandt's departure from New Orleans. Van Zandt himself undertook to make
Marie understand the necessity for the marriage service that would make
her his wife. She acquiesced readily, and asked that Father Quentin,
the old priest at Le Bon Berger, be permitted to perform the ceremony.

Her romantic fancy immediately invested the affair with a halo of
romance.

"I shall be a bride," she said, naïvely. "In madame's fashion books
there are brides all in white, with veils on their heads. I shall be
dressed like that, and the marriage shall be out in madame's garden by
moonlight. All the Jockey Club shall come to see, and the nuns from the
convent, too, if they choose."

Van Zandt said it should be just as she liked. He employed Marie's good
nurse to buy the simple white India muslin dress and tulle veil. Also a
pretty gray serge dress and straw hat for traveling.

Carmontelle presented her with a full set of large, lustrous pearls
to be worn at the ceremony, and the rest of the Jockey Club, who
had, since the day of Marie's splendid riding, felt almost a proud
proprietorship in her, contributed a great box full of costly
wedding-gifts--jewels, costly dressing-cases, perfume sets, glove-boxes
full of tiny kid gloves--everything, in short, that they could think of
on the spur of the moment, even adding a big photograph-album in ivory
and silver containing fac-similes of their familiar faces.

Father Quentin, only too glad to be forgiven for his treachery to
Carmontelle, came to perform the ceremony and bless the wedded pair.
But before this auspicious event a difficulty had arisen.

A marriage license must be procured; but what name should be written in
it for the nameless girl, Mme. Lorraine's Little Nobody?

Pierre Carmontelle came quickly to the rescue.

"I adopt Marie as my daughter. I am quite old enough to be her father.
Let the name be written Marie Carmontelle," he said.

And so as Marie Carmontelle she was given into the keeping of her
handsome young husband.

Everything was arranged as she wished. The priest grumbled at the
oddity of the whole thing, but she was married, all the same, out in
the beautiful garden, by moonlight, with the sweet scent of flowers
all about her, and her young face pale with excitement and strange
emotion. The Jockey Club came in a body to witness the wedding, and
some brought sisters and friends, who were all agog over the romance of
the affair, and said that the bride was as lovely as a dream, and that
that wicked Mme. Lorraine ought to have been ashamed of herself for
her cruel treatment of one so beautiful and innocent. The girl who but
a little while ago had been friendless and nameless had suddenly come
into a heritage of hosts of friends and one of the proudest names of
New England.

There was no wedding banquet. When the bride had been congratulated
by everybody, and even kissed by some of the beautiful, warm-hearted
ladies who had come to witness her strange marriage, her female
attendant whisked her off upstairs to change her white dress for a
traveling one; then, in a few more minutes, and with the sound of kind
adieus in her ears, she was in a carriage riding away from all that her
old life had ever known, except Eliot Van Zandt, who sat by her side,
her shy little hand in his, and called her his wife.

Soon they were on board the steamer that rocked at the wharf, soon
they were sailing away on the breast of the broad Mississippi, leaving
behind the glimmering lights and busy life of the quaint Crescent
City, homeward bound, and Eliot Van Zandt, who little more than two
months since had entered the harbor of New Orleans, careless, gay, and
fancy-free, was taking home a bride to his ancestral home. He had asked
himself rather nervously several times what his brother and sisters
would say.



CHAPTER XXVI.


He thought more and more on this subject, for Marie, her first timidity
got over, began to ask him artless questions about his home.

He told her that his family consisted of five members. He had a brother
older than himself, who was a lawyer in Boston. He was married, but had
no children, and he lived in the old family mansion on Beacon Hill,
with his two sisters, Maud and Edith, who were respectively nineteen
and seventeen, and had not quit the school-room yet. The fifth person
was Mrs. Wilson, their governess.

"Maud is the elder. She is quite talented, and is writing a novel," he
said. "Edith is an embryo artist. My brother's wife is very pretty and
fashionable. I hope you will like them all."

But a shudder crept over him at the thought of taking home a bride into
that refined and cultured circle to place her in the school-room, to
begin at the bottom of the ladder of learning. How shocked they would
be, how his brother's wife would lift her pale brows in wonder! He
dreaded her more than all the rest, for two reasons. One was that she
had brought a little money into the once rich, but now impoverished Van
Zandt family, and took airs on that account, and the other was that she
had a pretty sister with a _dot_, and wanted to make a match between
her and her brother-in-law. So Eliot fancied, and with some reason,
that she would not take kindly to the new-comer.

The further he got away from New Orleans, the more he was tormented by
his dread of his home-folks.

At last he made up his mind to give Marie some sight-seeing in New
York, and to write to his brother, and, to some extent, prepare them
for the shock they were to receive.

When the letter was written and posted, he felt better. He had
explained matters and invoked their good-will for his simple
child-wife. However much they were disappointed, they would respect his
wishes, they would not be unkind to Marie.

So he gave himself up with a light heart to the pleasure of showing her
the wonders of New York City.

Several days were spent there, and then he took her to Niagara Falls
for a few days more. He judged by that time that they would have got
over the shock in Boston, and be ready, perhaps, to receive Marie with
equanimity.

In this hope, he took the train for Boston with his little bride.

Throughout their long journey Van Zandt had adhered to his manly
resolve of treating his little bride simply as a dear friend or young
sister until she should have awakened from a child into a woman and
given her heart unreservedly with a wifely love.

On the steamer she had her separate state-room, at hotels her solitary
suite of rooms, on the trains her comfortable Pullman sleeping-car,
while the chivalrous young husband lounged away the long hours in a
smoking-car with his favorite cigar. The young bride, in her ignorance
and innocence, had not an idea but that this was the usual mode of
procedure with husband and wife, and thoroughly enjoyed the long
journey and the varied scenery through which she was being whirled.
Its newness and the strong contrast to her Southern home made it all
the more delightful. Eliot Van Zandt enjoyed her delight, her naïve
questions, and even her utter ignorance of everything, although he
sometimes caught himself wondering at the fact. But the truth was,
that the girl's invariably well-chosen sentences, acquired from
companionship with refined and well-bred people, made him often forget
that she was totally uneducated, and that years of school-room drudgery
yet lay before her ere she could take her place in the cultured world
of Boston society.

"There is one comfort. She is exceedingly intelligent, quick, and
receptive. She will learn very fast," he told himself.

One evening, at Niagara, when they sat together admiring the glorious
falls by moonlight, she said to him, curiously:

"You said once that if you could have chosen my name, it would not have
been Marie. Tell me what you would have called me?"

Turning to her with a smile, he replied:

"The name that I always fancied I should like for my wife to bear was
the sweet one of Una--no sweeter, I know, than Marie, but I grew to
love the name from reading Spenser's 'Faëry Queen.'"

Then he told her the pretty story, as well as he could, of the
beautiful Una who personified Truth in the "Faëry Queen." She listened
with sparkling eyes and eager interest.

"From this hour I shall be called Una," she exclaimed.

"But you have been baptized Marie," he said.

"It shall be Una Marie, then," she replied, in her pretty, positive
fashion, and he was pleased to assent.

"From this hour, then, I shall call you Una, and you shall call me
Eliot."

"But, monsieur--" deprecatingly.

"No more monsieurs," he replied, playfully. "They remind me too much of
Madame Lorraine."

"It shall be Eliot, then, always," answered the little bride.



CHAPTER XXVII.


Bryant Van Zandt was as much surprised and displeased as his brother
had expected on the reception of the letter announcing his marriage.

"Eliot had no right to do it. He promised our mother, before she died,
to stay single and care for the girls until they had homes of their
own!" he exclaimed, vexedly, to his wife, to whom he imparted the
shocking news before breaking it to his sisters.

Mrs. Van Zandt was a blonde of the very palest type.

    "Her skin it was milk-white,
     Her hair it was lint-white,
     Bright was the blue of her soft rolling eye."

She was about twenty-eight, but looked younger through her fairness.
She was rather pretty and petite, and, in her tasteful garb of blue and
white, looked like an animated bisque doll.

But her color took a warmer tint than usual just now, and frowning
darkly, she exclaimed:

"It was a shame for Eliot to go and make such a goose of himself. It
would not have been so bad if he had married a girl with money, as you
did, but to go and add another burden to the family is outrageous, I
declare! What ever will the girls say?"

"They will be very angry, I am sure," said the lawyer; but when it was
told to them, they did not make as much ado as their sister-in-law.
They looked grave and sorry, indeed, but Maud, the elder, said,
sensibly:

"It is very bad, but indeed, Bryant, I do not see how Eliot could have
acted otherwise. _Noblesse oblige_, you know."

It was the motto that had ruled the lives of the Van Zandts for
generations, and Bryant could not say one word; but his wife made a
little _moue_ of disdain.

"_Noblesse oblige_ has nothing to do with it," she said; "or, if it
had, it was the other way. He was bound to stay free for your and
Edith's sake."

Pretty Edith answered quickly:

"No, no, for we shall not want him to help pay for our dresses much
longer. Maud's book and my picture are almost done, and if we sell
them, we shall have money of our own."

"_Châteaux en Espagne_!" Mrs. Van Zandt muttered softly, with a covert
sneer.

She had no talent only for looking pretty and dressing well, and envied
that of her more gifted sisters-in-law.

They were used to her sneers, and they winced, but seldom retorted. The
dreamy, dignified Maud looked out of the window with a little sigh, and
the more self-assertive Edith exclaimed:

"There's no use crying over spilled milk, anyhow, and Eliot's married
for good and all. He has as much right to bring his bride home as you
had, Bryant, so we may as well all make the best of it--there!"

"No one disputes his right, Edith, we only deplore his imprudence,"
Bryant answered, flushing. "As for me, I married a woman who would
be no burden upon me, but Eliot candidly owns that he has made a
_mésalliance_."

"Married a pauper and a nobody!" flashed his wife.

"It is no such thing. Let me see his letter. He did not say that!"
cried Edith, angrily.

"Not exactly in those words, but it amounts to the same thing," Bryant
Van Zandt answered. He threw her the letter, and said impatiently:
"Well, you may fight it out among yourselves. I am going down-town."

He put on his hat and went out. Edith and Maud read their brother's
letter together. Its deprecatory, almost pleading tone, touched their
loyal young hearts.

"Poor Eliot, he could not help it. We must not scold," said Edith.
"This old house is big enough for us all, isn't it, Maud?"

"Yes," she answered; but the sweet eyes were grave with trouble as she
fixed them on Mrs. Van Zandt. She burst out suddenly:

"Oh, Sylvie, do not look so glum, please. Of course, we do not like it,
and neither did Eliot, I fancy; but you must see there was no other way
for a Van Zandt, so we must make the best of it."

"Fancy a Van Zandt--one of the Van Zandts, of Boston--bringing home an
A B C school-girl as a bride!" was the disdainful answer she received.

Vivacious Edith cried out tartly:

"You need not take on such airs, Sylvie. You are not so learned
yourself. New York girls never know anything but dressing and flirting."

"We marry into poor, learned families, and so adjust the difference,"
Mrs. Van Zandt replied, sarcastically.

Both the sisters flushed hotly at this coarse rejoinder.

Mrs. Van Zandt had been generous with her money, flinging it about
her with the lavish hand of a spoiled darling of Fortune; but she was
always conscious of its importance, never more so than when twitted
with her execrable French, her questionable time in music, and her
outrageous flirting, that sometimes drove poor Bryant wild with
jealousy.

And so to this household, with its discordant elements, its
supercilious mistress, its dreamy student, Maud, its enthusiastic,
artistic Edith, came Una with her impassioned soul, her shy
sensitiveness, her innocence and ignorance, and her heritage of beauty,
yet branded already "pauper and nobody."

When she saw all those fair young faces grouped in the handsome
drawing-room to meet her, her heart thrilled with timid delight. She
had had so little to do all her life with the young and gay.

All at once, as it were, she was thrown into a house full of young and
handsome people, and it was most pleasant. With pretty confidence,
quite untouched with self-assertion, she received their greetings, kind
on the part of the girls, patronizing on that of Mrs. Van Zandt, and
reserved as regarded Bryant.

It was twilight when they arrived, and a cup of tea awaited them before
the late dinner. Una sipped hers shyly under the fire of the strange
eyes that were steadily taking in her _tout ensemble_, the simple,
tasteful gray dress, the hat with gray feathers that seemed such a
Quakerish setting for the lovely unique face, with its somber, dark
eyes and slender, dark brows, its perfect chiseling, and its aureole of
rich golden hair.

"I shall paint her portrait," Edith whispered, in a stage aside.



CHAPTER XXVIII.


Bryant's wife was quite displeased when Eliot came frankly to her to
ask that a separate suite of rooms be provided for his girlish bride.

"Do you hate her so much, then?" she queried, arching her pale brows
disagreeably.

He started and looked annoyed.

"Who said I hated her? You are very much mistaken in the idea,
Sylvie," he said, curtly. "I love Una quite as well, I have no doubt,
as Bryant loves you."

"Why, then--" she began, but he interrupted quickly:

"Simply because the love is all on one side yet. My wife is wedded, yet
not won. Her heart is that of a child still, and although she bears my
name, I will claim no rights save a lover's until I win her woman's
love."

Mrs. Bryant had only been acquainted with Una an hour, but she could
have told Eliot a different story from that. Her quick eyes had seen
the wealth of tenderness in the dark orbs of Una as they rested now
and then on her husband's face, but Sylvie was more angry than any one
supposed over this unexpected marriage. She was not unselfish enough to
open the eyes of the blind young husband.

"Oh, very well, if you choose to make a chivalrous goose of yourself,
Eliot," she answered, tartly, "I suppose she can have the best suite of
guest-rooms--the ones I have been fixing up for my sister. But I can
write a word to Ida not to come."

"Of course you will not. There are other rooms," he said, impatiently.

Sylvie shrugged her shoulders.

"Ida's used only to the best," she said, insolently.

He regarded her for a moment in stern silence. Underneath his usual
gentle, nonchalant manner slept a will that was iron when needful.
After a moment he said firmly:

"See here, Sylvie, my wife has the same right in my father's old house
that Bryant's wife has. You have the best suite of rooms in the house,
she must have the next best. If you have put anything from your own
purse into the rooms, it can be removed into another room for Ida's use
when she comes. Una knows, for I have told her, that the Van Zandts are
poor--that we have nothing but this big, old-fashioned house, and such
a small income that barely buys our sisters' dresses, and I have to eke
out the rest by hard work. She does not expect anything luxurious, but
I shall see that she has the best I can afford."

So the gage was thrown down, and Sylvie picked it up at once. She
had the petty meanness to strip Una's rooms of all the pretty things
she had placed in them for Ida, and they looked rather bare when she
finished her task of despoliation. But Maud and Edith brought the
prettiest things from their own rooms to fill up the void, indignant at
her petty spite.

"I know what is the matter. She is mad because she can not marry Eliot
to Ida now. It's what she's been fishing for all the time," Edith said,
indignantly; and the sisters made a generous compact to fight the
battles for the new-comer that their clear young eyes already saw were
inevitable.

There was one person who took kindly at once to Una, and that was the
middle-aged governess, Mrs. Wilson. When she had come first to teach
the little Van Zandts, she had been a forlorn young widow, having
lately buried her husband and her only child. She had taught Eliot when
a little lad, and she had taught his sisters, growing gray in patient
service of her well-beloved pupils. Now, in the fair, innocent face
and great, dark eyes of Eliot's wife, she fancied a resemblance to the
little daughter that had been in Heaven so long.

"I shall love to teach her all that I can," she said, with a dimness in
her gentle brown eyes. "I love to look at her beautiful face with those
solemn eyes so much like my dead Elsie's eyes."

And loving her first for Elsie's sake, she soon grew to love her for
her own. Never was there pupil so eager to learn, so thirsty for
knowledge, so untiring in application as was the neglected Little
Nobody, as Mrs. Van Zandt still called her contemptuously in her
thoughts.



CHAPTER XXIX


The first few months of Una's stay in her husband's home passed quietly
and uneventfully. Fortunately for all concerned, Bryant's wife went off
to spend the summer at Long Branch with her mother and sister. In the
generosity of her heart, she took Bryant with her, so the household
that was left was very quiet and peaceable.

The girls took their summer vacation from study, and Maud worked on
her novel, Edith at her picture. In the school-room Mrs. Wilson and
Una diligently climbed the ladder of knowledge through the long summer
mornings. In the afternoons the four ladies took long country rides,
and in the short evenings there were dinner and Eliot. They had music
always to enliven them, and very often neighbors and friends dropped in
and made the time pass agreeably. Often Eliot, who, as a newspaper man,
had tickets to concerts, lectures, readings, and plays, took them out
to pleasant entertainments. He managed, too, to buy Una a little brown
pony to ride, and she had some charming morning canters by the side of
her husband, who made the carriage-horse do service on his own behalf.

Sylvie Van Zandt would have said it was a humdrum life, but Eliot and
Una thoroughly enjoyed it. Nay, to her it seemed an elysium, this
bright home, with its kind, friendly faces and gentle words, so unlike
her life with Mme. Lorraine.

Una had learned to read and write with perfect facility and surprising
ease, and passed on to higher studies. Of French she already had some
knowledge--indeed, as much as she had of English, having spoken either
at will in her New Orleans home--so this language was very easy to
acquire now. For music she developed a talent equal to that of her
husband, and he was delighted to find that she had a sweet, low alto
voice that blended in perfect harmony with his own.

She began to read poetry and novels now, and their strange sweetness
thrilled her very soul. She learned that wonderful word, Love, and some
of its subtler meanings. It grew to be the theme of her thoughts and
dreams, although in the exquisite shyness that offset her child-like
frankness she never even named the word to Eliot.

But, for all that, she began to comprehend its mystic meaning, and to
say to herself, with deep tenderness:

"It is what Eliot feels for me and I for him."

Yet this blind young lover-husband said to himself sometimes,
discontentedly:

"She is very bright over other lessons, but very slow learning the one
I am trying to teach her so patiently every day."

Every day she grew more beautiful and graceful under the clever tuition
of Mrs. Wilson, who delighted in her task of forming the unformed girl.
They spent happy hours over the piano together, patient ones over books
and blackboards.

For several months she never even heard the words "A Little Nobody,"
under which she had chafed so often at Mme. Lorraine's. Life began to
have a new, sweet meaning, whose key-note was love.

She was so sorry when Eliot went away with his friendly hand-clasp in
the morning, so glad when he returned in the evening. Sometimes she
said to herself that she would not have minded kissing him now, as Maud
and Edith did every morning; but, since the day when she promised to
marry him, and then rejected his kiss, he had never offered another.

"I should not care for a cold, duty kiss," he thought. "I will wait for
her love and her kisses together."

In the meantime, he worked very hard at his literary duties, trying
to double the moderate salary he had enjoyed before his marriage,
that his sisters might not feel the change. The pony had been quite an
extravagance, but he had heard her express a timid wish for one, and by
some severe self-denial in the matter of coats and cigars, had managed
to gratify her wish. But he did not chafe against the silent sacrifices
he made for her sake. Each one only made the dark-eyed girl dearer to
his heart, and the memory of that last day in madame's prison always
made him shudder and long to clasp her passionately to his heart.

On his strong white arm there was a slight scar made by the wound of a
pocket-knife. He often looked at it when alone, and said to himself:

"To that little scar my darling owes her life."

But Una, all unconscious of the debt, still sweetly ignorant of his
blindness, went on with her studies, and her music, and her poetry
reading, making him the hero of all in her silent, adoring fashion.

There was one thing that touched and pleased him.

She had not forgotten one of the many songs with which he had beguiled
the dreariness of their imprisonment, and she had insisted on learning
each one. The two that she liked best were "The Warrior Bold" and "Two
Little Lives." Mrs. Wilson and the girls noticed that she had a fashion
of humming over one little verse very often to herself:

    "It was a lark that sung in the heaven,
       While all the world stood still to hear,
     Many a maiden looked from her knitting,
       And in her heart there crept a tear.
     Down came the lark and sung to the daisy,
       Sung to it only songs of love,
     Till in the twilight slumbered the daisy,
       Turning its sweet face to heaven above."

She never said to her young husband now, as she had said that time
in their prison, "You are the lark and I the little daisy," but she
thought it all the more, and the fanciful thought pleased her well.

Maud and Edith, who had first taken Una's part out of generous loyalty
to their brother, now began to like their sister-in-law more for her
own sake.

At first they said: "It is not so bad as we feared at first. She is
learning very fast, and she is really very good and very pretty. And
even although she is of obscure origin, she is a Van Zandt now, and
that is enough."

Maud used to read her whole chapters of the wonderful novel, and when
Una's color rose and her eyes sparkled with mirth or feeling, the young
authoress was delighted. She took it as a tribute to her genius, and
was cheered and encouraged in her delightful work. Edith, on her part,
appropriated the girl for a model, and made her pose for her benefit
every day in the little studio at the top of the house. At last the two
girls unanimously voted her a decided acquisition.

"It is very fortunate Eliot had to marry her. She is a darling, and I
can see that they are beginning to fall in love with each other," said
Edith.

"I am so glad that it will turn out a love-match after all," Maud
replied, with enthusiasm.

The days came and went, and brought the early, bleak New England
autumn. It was time for Sylvie to come home, but Bryant came alone. His
wife had gone to New York with her family to stay for the beginning of
the social season. Every one but her husband was secretly pleased when
she stayed until after the New-Year festivities. Maud and Edith were
quite sure that they had got along more happily without her, although
they were too polite to hint such a thing to Bryant.

At last she came in the middle of January. Ida Hayes, her sister, a
younger edition of herself, came with her, and straightway the halcyon
days of Una came to an end.

Sylvie came to her room that evening, when she was putting on her
simple blue silk dress for dinner, with an air of importance and
anxiety.

"Have you come to your senses yet--you two?" she demanded, brusquely.
"If you have, I shall be glad, for I do so want these rooms for Ida."

Una, with her laces all awry, looked up blankly.

"I--don't--think--I understand," she answered.

"Pshaw! I mean, do you use the same suite of rooms as your husband?"

The pretty, wondering face did not change its color, the dark eyes only
looked amazed.

"Of course not," Una said, and Sylvie's red lips curled.

"Of course not!" she mimicked, sneeringly. "Why, you silly child, you
talk very strangely. Bryant and I share the same suite of rooms, do we
not? All husbands and wives do who love each other."



CHAPTER XXX.


Una commenced to fasten her laces with strangely trembling fingers.

"Eliot and I love each other!" she said, slowly.

"Oh, indeed?" said Sylvie, with a very incredulous giggle. "You did not
when I went away. Have you done your courting since, as you had no time
for it before you were married?"

The wonder, the half-dazed comprehension in the girl's pale face ought
to have made her less pitiless, but it had been her dream and Bryant's
to marry Ida to Eliot. She had said to herself many times that she
could never forgive the Little Nobody that had thwarted her plans.

So with an angry heart and pitiless eyes she had thrust the point of a
dagger into Una's heart.

But with proud, somber eyes the girl-wife said, gravely:

"You said you wanted these rooms for Miss Hayes. Very well, you can
have them. I dare say Maud will give me another room."

"Oh, dear no, I would not turn you out of your room for the world,
child!" suavely. She knew that Eliot would not permit it. "I only
thought that if you had given them up and gone to Eliot's these would
suit Ida. She always had them when she came before, and it does seem
foolish, does it not, for man and wife to occupy six rooms when three
would be enough? I hoped you and Eliot had become reconciled to your
forced marriage ere this."

Driven to bay, Una cried out, angrily:

"Mrs. Van Zandt, you are talking the wildest nonsense. There was no
forced marriage."

"Then why did Eliot write such a letter to my husband? Come to my room,
I will show it to you since you dispute my word."

She caught Una's cold hand and half dragged her with her to her own
room, where behind locked doors she gave the ignorant wife that fatal
letter to read--fatal, because in Eliot's haste and worry he had stated
only the bare facts of the case, and Una could not read between the
lines the love that had filled his heart.

She read it--the lovely, trusting girl--every word. She comprehended
it in part. What she could not fathom Sylvie pointed out in clearest
language, and when she had made her cruel meaning clear as day, she
said, maliciously:

"_Noblesse oblige_!"

A gasp, and the girl's heavy eyes turned dumbly on her face--dumb with
a bitter, humble humiliation. Sylvie said, half deprecatingly:

"He did not love you at first, of course. How could he? When he came he
asked me to give you a separate suite. I remonstrated, but he insisted.
Of course I thought you would win him while I was away, and he would
get over his foolishness."

Una had folded her white arms on the dressing-table, and was looking
into her face with dazed, heavy eyes. She muttered, hoarsely:

"Oh, this is too dreadful! What must he, what must you all think of me?"

Sylvie replied, with cruel frankness:

"Of course we all felt angry with you at first. We were disappointed,
too, for we had all expected that he would marry sister Ida. There had
been no engagement, but it was understood. But there, no one blames you
or him, child. As I said before, Eliot could not have acted any other
way. _Noblesse oblige_!"

As if forgetful of her presence, Una murmured, sadly:

"_Mon Dieu_! what shall I do?"

Sylvie answered, with more sense than she had displayed in making these
cruel revelations:

"Do? Why, nothing but make the best of it, as Eliot and the rest of us
have done. What has happened can not be altered now, so you must try
to make him fond of you, so that he shall no longer regret taking you
and losing Ida; and, for one thing, you ought not to be so extravagant.
There is that pony he bought you. I know he could not afford it,
really, for he is poor. And to-night I saw him bring you hot-house
flowers. I am afraid he is running into debt just to pamper your whims.
Now, if he had married Ida, it would have been different. She would
have brought him a fortune, and could have paid her own bills."

Pale as she would ever be in her coffin, Una stood listening, her heart
beating wildly.

"I am in his way. Oh, I wish I could die now!" she was thinking wildly.

Sylvie, who had done all this out of sheer malice, gloated over the
sight of her misery.

To herself she said spitefully:

"I am paying her back, the little pauper and nobody, for Ida's
disappointment."

Then suddenly she remembered that it was almost dinner-time. She said
carelessly:

"You had better go back to your room and finish dressing, Una; and
remember, I would not have told you what I have, only that you disputed
my word. I hope you will not run to Edith with it. It will only make
matters worse. I dare say he will learn to love you in time."

"I shall run to no one with it," Una answered, in a strange voice.
She moved to the door as she spoke, and passed out. Sylvie laughed
mockingly.

"I have paid Eliot now for his insolence. I know he loves her to
madness. I saw it in his eyes when she met him so coolly this evening.
Well, this will put a stumbling-block between them that he will not
easily pass."

And humming an opera air with heartless indifference, she made some
slight addition to her already elaborate toilet, and went down-stairs.

Una's toilet, the light-blue surah silk with square neck and
elbow-sleeves, was complete but for the handsome corsage bouquet Eliot
had brought her an hour ago. She did not pin it on her breast; she took
it in her hand and ran along the hall, then tapped softly at the door
of the apartment that she knew had been designed for Miss Hayes's use.

Ida opened it, dazzling Una's eyes with the glitter of her satin and
jewels. She frowned slightly at the intruder.

"I have brought you these flowers to wear," Una said, rapidly,
thrusting them into Ida's white hand. Then she turned away and went
along the hall with slow, lagging footsteps, down the broad, shallow
staircase, and so to the drawing-room, her young face pale with
emotion, and a strange, excited glitter in her dark eyes.



CHAPTER XXXI.


Eliot was sitting on a low _tête-à-tête_. He moved aside slightly to
allow her room at his side.

But Una did not seem to see her husband's involuntary movement. She
went to the opposite side of the room and sat down by Edith, who, with
her brown hair and brown eyes, looked very pretty in garnet velvet
and cashmere daintily combined into a graceful dinner-dress. Maud was
buried in a book on the other side of her, but she had taken time to
honor the new arrivals by putting on her best black silk with a white
lace fichu to relieve its somber tone.

Vivacious Edith exclaimed instantly:

"Oh, Una, the pretty flowers that Eliot brought you--you have forgotten
to wear them. Shall I run and get them for you?"

"Thank you--but no," as Edith rose. "I don't care for them. I--I have
given them away."

Eliot had heard distinctly the question and answer; but there was no
time for comment. Ida Hayes sailed in--a bisque doll in Nile-green silk
and velvet, with Eliot's roses pinned among the laces of her V-shaped
corsage.

"And to think that I went without cigars two days to buy Ida Hayes a
corsage bouquet!" he said, ruefully, to himself.

But the loss of the cigars was the least part of his mortification.

He had fancied he was winning his way to his girl-bride's heart. This
little incident showed him clearly his mistake.

"She is not learning to love me. Perhaps she never will," he thought,
gloomily.

Ida Hayes, with the best grace in the world, sat down on the
_tête-à-tête_ beside him. She was a belle and a beauty--had been for
seven years, ever since she left the school-room at eighteen--and she
could have been married well long ago, but she had seen no one she
fancied until she met Eliot Van Zandt at her sister's wedding three
years ago. Since then her heart, as well as Sylvie's, had been set on
an alliance with him, and his marriage had been a bitter blow to her
self-love.

But she was a society woman. She did not wear her heart on her sleeve,
and in the clear, pale-blue eyes upraised to his Eliot Van Zandt read
no sign of her disappointed hopes.

"I see you looking at my flowers. That dear little thing, your wife,
gave them to me," she said, carelessly.

He answered as carelessly:

"Yes, and they harmonize well with your dress."

But in his heart he longed to tear them from her breast and trample
them beneath his feet. They had taught him a bitter lesson--one he
would not soon forget.

Dinner was announced, and he took Ida into the dining-room. Bryant gave
Sylvie his arm, and Una followed with her sisters-in-law, hiding with a
smile her pain at the preference Eliot had shown Miss Hayes.

"How he must hate me, for he can not help thinking that but for me he
would not have lost her. It was right to give her the flowers. She had
really the best right to them," she said miserably to herself.

The flowers, the lights, the china and silver of the well-appointed
table flashed confusedly before her eyes. She could see nothing clearly
but the pretty wax-doll face of Miss Hayes as she sat opposite to Eliot
and talked to him incessantly.

Glancing up and down the long table at the fair faces of the five
ladies, she said, gayly:

"Two gentlemen and five ladies! Only two have cavaliers. There are
three of us too many."

Una thought, with keen shame and inexpressible bitterness:

"Only one too many, and that one is poor little me!"

She made a great effort to eat, and swallowed some food, although it
half choked her; but as soon as they rose from the table she slipped
away and went up to the school-room, where Mrs. Wilson, whose impaired
digestion abhorred late dinners, was placidly taking some milk and
oatmeal by way of supper.

"Oh, my dear, have you got a fever? Your eyes shine so brightly, and
your cheeks are quite flushed!" exclaimed the good governess, anxiously.

"I am not sick; I dare say I am excited. There is company, you know,
and I thought I should not be missed if I stole away up here with you,"
Una answered, with affected carelessness.

Mrs. Wilson smiled on her pupil, and answered, kindly:

"I'm glad you came, dear; but, of course, you will be missed. Your
husband would miss you, if there was a room full of company."

Una answered in a strange tone:

"No, not to-night; for Miss Ida Hayes is there."

Mrs. Wilson put down her glass of milk and looked curiously at the
speaker. She began to comprehend the cause of her strange looks and
words. She said to herself:

"This pretty little girl-bride has grown jealous of some meaningless
attention of Eliot to Miss Hayes. She loves her husband, and the boy is
somehow too stupid to see it, or, perhaps, he does not care. I would
speak to him, but I do not like to meddle in so delicate an affair."

Aloud, she said gently:

"I like to have you up here with me, but your husband and friends
will think I am selfish, dear; so you had better go back to the
drawing-room. Miss Ida Hayes is not charming enough to make up to Eliot
for your absence."

Una turned around suddenly and looked at her gravely.

"Very well, then; I will go, since you don't want me; but I shall go to
my own room," she said.

And she did, and there Edith found her, pretending to read, when she
came to seek her half an hour later.

"You selfish child! put down your book. We are going to have some
music, and we want your alto," she said.

"I can not sing to-night; my head aches," Una answered; and none of
Edith's arguments could alter her refusal. She was obliged to go down
alone and make excuses for her sister-in-law.

"She has a headache, and can not come down," she said; and Sylvie
laughed in her sleeve.

"She is jealous of Ida," she thought, maliciously.



CHAPTER XXXII.


The rest of the family were already assembled at breakfast when Una
entered the dining room the next morning, pale and grave-looking, after
a wretched, sleepless night. Her place by Eliot was waiting for her,
although she had half expected it would be filled by Ida Hayes.

Eliot had been watching for her anxiously, and his glance was very
tender, despite the episode of last night.

"I hope your head is better," he said, kindly; and looking at him with
a smile of wonderful sweetness, she answered:

"It is well, thank you."

In the long vigil of last night she had formed a noble resolve to win
her husband's heart, and to make up to him by her womanly sweetness for
all he had sacrificed in marrying her, a nameless girl of obscure birth.

Sylvie's hints had not been lost upon her. She determined that she
would not allow Eliot to be so extravagant for her sake again. The
brown pony must be sold, the hot-house flowers must not be bought. She
would have no more new dresses. She would not be a burden on him she
loved.

"Chocolate, Una?" asked Mrs. Van Zandt, who was presiding at the silver
urn with graceful ease. She filled the china cup for the girl, laughing
the while in secret at her pale, wistful face.

"It was a hard blow to her pride," she said to herself, exultantly;
then she turned her attention again to her husband, who had been
reading from the morning paper when Una's entrance interrupted him.

"Our old favorite on the boards again. It will be a treat," said
Sylvie. "On what night did you say, Bryant?"

"The sixteenth; that will be three nights off," he answered.

"Exactly. We will all go. We will make up a theater-party. What do you
say, girls?"

"Splendid!" said Edith.

"All right!" exclaimed Ida, and Maud added a more sedate affirmative.

"And you, dear?" Eliot said, gently, to the silent girl by his side.

She lifted her dark, mournful eyes to his face with a gentle smile, and
said, wistfully, almost humbly:

"Whatever you wish, Eliot."

The sweetness of her smile and voice disarmed his resentment for her
slight of last night, and leaning toward her, he said, in a tender
whisper:

"We will go, then, and I will bring you another bouquet; but mind, no
giving it away this time."

"Did you care?" she murmured back, with sudden radiance.

They were rising from the table just then, and Una slipped her white
fingers daringly through his arm, as she murmured the coquettish words.
He looked down, saw the sudden radiance on her face, and a half-light
broke upon his mind.

"So you did it to make me jealous, madame?" he said, gayly. "Very well;
you attained your desire. But I must be off now. Come to the library
one minute. I want you."

Inside the cozy little room, he said, kindly:

"You will want a new dress for the theater-party. How much?"

She drew back from him, scarlet with shame.

"Oh, no; I have plenty of dresses--more than I need."

"Very well, but you shall have a new dress if you wish it."

"But I do not wish it," hurriedly. "And--and--oh, Eliot, I'm afraid I
cost you too much money! Sell the brown pony. I do not care for riding
any more, and it is a useless expense to keep it."

His fair, handsome face grew suddenly stern.

"Who has been putting such nonsense in your head?" he demanded.

"It is not nonsense," Una said, shyly but firmly. "You are poor. You
told me so long ago. So I know you can not afford the expense."

"Nonsense--" he began; but the door opened, and Maud entered, followed
by Edith.

"Oh, excuse us, Una. We did not know you were here with Eliot. We just
came in to say good-morning to him before we go in the drawing-room
with Ida."

He kissed them both, and they went out. He held out his hand to his
wife.

"By-by, Una. I suppose I must really tear myself away," he said.



CHAPTER XXXIII.


She put her small hand in his, and he felt the fingers curl around his
own, gently detaining him.

"Well, dear?" he asked, thinking that she was about to change her mind
and say she would have the new dress.

Her face dropped a little to hide the warm flush that rose over it as
she stammered in desperate confusion:

"Before you--go--I must make a confession. Last night I--I--told an
untruth when I said I had a headache and could not sing. You--you will
not call me your little Una, your lady of truth any more now, will you,
Eliot?"

She was so close to him, the supple, girlish figure leaned so near that
he daringly slipped his arm around the small waist. A thrill of rapture
ran through him as he felt her nestle shyly in his clasp.

"So it was not a headache, my little Truth?" he whispered, lovingly.
"What was the reason then that made you desert us all so unkindly?"

"It was--was--a fit of ill-temper," Una exclaimed, remorsefully; then
she turned round, so quickly, so lightly, he did not realize it until
it was over, and slipping her arm around his neck drew his face down to
hers, pressed a light, bashful kiss upon his lips, then tore herself
from his clasp and fled the room.

Strong man as he was, Eliot Van Zandt reeled backward into a chair,
dizzy with delicious rapture at that light, shy but ardent pressure of
Una's lips upon his own.

It had come so unexpectedly, that moment of bliss after the bitterness
and hopelessness of last night, it was like the dawning of a new day
after a night of storm and darkness.

Hope plumed her wings again in his heart.

"She is going to learn to love me," he thought, happily, too blind
still to understand the full meaning of that caress that had sent such
a shock of rapturous delight through his whole being.

He sat still a few blissful moments, going gladly over her looks and
words.

"Not a headache--a fit of ill-temper. Ill-temper over what?" he
wondered, then suddenly: "Oh, my little love, my darling, you were
vexed because Ida Hayes sat down by my side, because I took her in to
dinner. Well, I shall bless the coming of Ida if through her coquetry
my Una learns she has a heart."

Meanwhile, frightened at her own boldness, her heart beating furiously,
Una rushed upstairs, seeking solitude in which to hide herself from all.

"What must he think of me?" she murmured, with crimson blushes. "I did
not mean to do it. I do not know how I dared so much. Was he angry, I
wonder? I could not look at him. I was so amazed at what I had done!"

Her lips burned with the touch of his, her heart throbbed with pain
and pleasure commingled. Walking restlessly up and down the floor, she
murmured:

"I love him so dearly that I must--I must win his heart! Then, and not
till then, will he forgive me for the loss of Ida and her fortune. How
shamed I felt over the proffer of the new dress! He will give me new
dresses, but he will not give me his heart. He puts me away from him
like a stranger. Shall I resent it? Ah, no, no; since he has sacrificed
so much for me, I must sacrifice my pride for him. For his own sake,
for his future happiness; I, the Little Nobody, obscure, unloved,
penniless, uncultured, must make myself beloved by him until he shall
bless the wayward fate that made him mine."

The dark eyes glowed, the cheeks crimsoned with emotion, as Una
thought, passionately:

"I would that I could do some brave, noble, heroic deed that would
challenge the world's admiration, so that he would forget my obscure
origin and my misfortune that drove him to the sacrifice that saved me
from the world's scorn, in sudden pride and love for me!"

There was a light tap at the door. Mrs. Wilson had sent Edith to bring
her tardy pupil to the school-room.

"If you are sick, or otherwise engaged, she will readily excuse you,"
Edith said.

"I do not want to be excused," said Una, as she hurried to the presence
of the gentle governess.

But that day she found books and lessons irksome in the extreme. Her
heart and mind were full of the strange facts she had heard last night
from the lips of Sylvie.

She who had been wedded, yet no wife, for almost a year had only now
found out that she was unloved, and the humiliation weighed her almost
to the earth, in spite of her brave, sensible resolve to win Eliot yet,
and make him forget that once he had sighed for Ida Hayes.

She longed to throw down the irksome books and cry out to the gentle,
placid Mrs. Wilson: "Away with books! Teach me the only lesson that
interests me now--how to win my husband's heart!"

She beat back the yearning impulse to claim this gentle woman's
sympathy with bitter pride.

"Shall I complain of him to her, to any one?" she thought. "Ah, no;
it lies between us two and God! The bitter secret shall never pass
my lips! Secret, did I say? Alas! it is known to them all, has been
known all along. How they must pity me, the unloved wife, the perhaps
unwelcome intruder in the home to which they had hoped he would bring
Ida Hayes a loved and loving bride!"

It did not look as if she was unwelcome when at the close of study
hours Maud and Edith burst into the room.

"Una, we are just dying to get hold of you!" Edith cried. "We want to
talk about the theater-party. What are we going to wear, for I'm sure
we can not afford new dresses."

"And we want to look as nice as possible, for Ida and Sylvie will do
all they can to outshine us," added Maud. "Of course they have lots of
new things, so Edith and I have just made up our minds to have some of
the pretty things in mamma's trunks upstairs. She gave them to us long
before she died. So if you won't be offended, Una, dear, come with us,
and we'll find something that we can fix over for the theater-party."

"What is it all about?" queried gentle Mrs. Wilson, and Edith returned:

"A popular actress who left the stage almost sixteen years ago has
returned to it again, and they say she is as young, lovely, and
spirited as when she retired to marry a rich aristocrat. All paint,
of course, but Sylvie is just wild to have us go and see her play on
Thursday night."



CHAPTER XXXIV.


Una went with the girls to ransack the trunks, but she steadily
declined to accept any of the finery they spread out on the bed and
chairs.

"Eliot offered to give me a new dress this morning, and I told him I
had plenty," she said, "so if I took any of these, he would think I had
deceived him."

"You dear little conscientious thing, you are well named Una,"
cried Edith, gayly. "But Eliot would never know, and, my dear, this
rose-colored satin with lace flounces would make up lovely for you, and
be so becoming."

"It is too fine for me," Una answered, shrinkingly.

"Not a bit. A gold dress would not be too fine for Eliot's wife,"
vivaciously. "And you know, dear, at a theater-party one dresses as if
for a ball. We shall have private boxes, you know, and every one will
want to look nice. Now, you really have nothing fit to wear."

Una flushed sensitively, but she knew that it was true. She had
nothing fine but the blue silk dinner-dress, except--and her heart
throbbed painfully--the sweet, white dress with its filmy laces that
she had worn for her strange marriage that starlit night in New Orleans
beneath the green trees in the quaint semi-tropical garden. The dress,
with the necklace of pearls, lay folded away in the bottom of her trunk.

"I have the white dress I wore when I was--married," she said,
dubiously. "Perhaps it will do."

They went with her to look at it, and they were charmed with the
quaint, pretty robe and the moon-white pearls.

"You will look lovely in this. Why did you not show it to us before?
And you never told us you had such splendid jewels."

"Are they splendid? I did not know it. Monsieur Carmontelle gave them
to me for a wedding-gift. I have more of them in a box given me by the
Jockey Club."

They exclaimed with delight when they saw the lovely things in the
jewel-casket. There were diamonds, rubies, emeralds, all in the most
tasteful and elegant settings. Una gave them _carte blanche_ to wear
what they pleased, and accepting the offer in sisterly sincerity, the
girls selected each a set appropriate to the costume selected for the
occasion.

"You will wear the pearls with the white dress, Una, I will take the
diamonds to suit the rose-colored satin, and Maud can wear the rubies
with the gold brocade!" exclaimed Edith, gayly. "Oh, how surprised
Sylvie and Ida will be! They will expect us to look like dowdies,
knowing we can not afford new dresses. But we will keep all a secret,
and burst upon them Thursday evening in a blaze of glory!"

"Agreed!" cried Maud, merrily, and Una's gentle, pensive smile added
assent, although to herself she sighed apprehensively:

"Perhaps Eliot will not like for me to appear in my wedding-dress. It
will remind him of his sacrifice. But I have nothing else to wear."

And when Eliot asked her that evening what kind of a dress she would
wear, so that he might select her flowers in keeping, she answered, in
a half-frightened tone.

"White!"

"It will suit you," he answered, kindly, but Una thought, sadly:

"He would not say so if he knew it was my wedding-dress!"

He lingered by her side, thrilled with the memory of the morning's
kiss, and waiting to see if she would show him any more kindness.

Una was very glad to keep him near her, but she was full of a blushing
consciousness that made her even more shy than usual. Oh, that kiss
this morning!--how had she dared to be so bold?--and yet she had a
passionate longing to repeat the caress.

Ida Hayes saw him lingering by his wife, and called him away to sing
with her.

"That duet we used to sing, you know," she said; and her familiar tone
and coquettish smile half maddened Una with pain. She drew back without
a word, and let Eliot pass her, and between Sylvie and her sister he
had no more chance to speak to her in the drawing-room that evening.
When the music was done he was drawn into a game of chess, and as Una
was ignorant of the game she was perforce left out. She sat apart and
talked to some callers who had dropped in, and when they left she was
only too glad to find that the evening was over and the family were
separated for the night.

She went upstairs very slowly, and along the carpeted hall to her
room, with a bitter sense of loneliness and disappointment, vaguely
comprehending the malice of the two women who had so cleverly kept
Eliot from her side all the evening.

"They hate me for my unconscious fault," she thought, miserably.

"Good-night, Una," a voice said, suddenly, almost at her side.

It was Eliot who had followed her upstairs. As she turned round her
white, startled face, he drew her hand in his arm and walked with her
toward her door.

"You forgot to tell me good-night," he said, smiling. "Or--did you
deliberately snub me again because of--a fit of ill-temper?"

Too truthful to deny the imputation, she said, bashfully:

"I'm afraid so. I thought Miss Hayes wasn't going to let you off long
enough to say good-night, so I came away."

Pressing her little hand very close against his side, he replied,
ardently:

"I should like to see the Miss Hayes that could keep me from saying
good-night to my darling little wife."

They had reached her door. She paused, trembling with delight, but in
the dim light he could not see the gladness in the beautiful dark eyes.
He only felt the trembling of the form beside him, and thought that she
was nervous and frightened.

"Do not be afraid of me, Una," he said, hurriedly, and with sharp
disappointment. Then he drew the little figure close to his heart, and
held her there a moment, while he pressed on her warm lips the ardent
kiss of a lover. A moment more he turned away and left her to enter her
room alone, with some sweet, passionate words ringing in her ears:

"Good-night, my darling, my little wife! Sleep well, and dream of your
own Eliot."

"Did he mean it? Is he learning to love me at last?" she whispered to
herself, sobbing wildly with hysterical delight, and trembling with
bashful pleasure. She unrobed and lay down on her dainty white bed, not
to sleep, but to live over and over again, in fancy, his tender looks
and words and his warm caress.

But Eliot, in whom a passionate hope and longing had been stirring all
day, went to his solitary room vaguely disappointed.

"Poor darling! I frightened her by my vehemence," he said,
remorsefully, to himself. "Her beauty and her gentleness tempted me
almost beyond my strength. Ah, she little dreamed what a struggle it
cost to leave her there and to wait, still wait, although half maddened
with love and longing."

For him, too, the drowsy god tarried to-night, and he tossed
sleeplessly on his pillow, dreaming of Una just as Una was dreaming of
him, with infinite love and yearning.

Weary with the night's restlessness, Una slept too soundly next morning
for the breakfast-bell to rouse her from her slumbers. Eliot, who had
to be at the office by a certain hour, fidgeted uneasily, and at last
sent Edith to see if she was awake.

In a minute she came out on tiptoe.

"She is sleeping so sweetly, I had not the heart to wake her," she
said. "But, Eliot, you might just slip in and kiss her good-bye in her
sleep."

Her keen young eyes saw the sensitive color mount to his temples.

"Una would not like it," he replied, gravely.

Candid Edith shut the door softly behind her, and gave her brother a
playful little shake as she went with him along the hall.

"Eliot, you are a great goose, that's what you are!" she cried. "Una is
your wife. You have a right to go in her room and kiss her if you like,
and I don't believe she would object, either!"

With a sigh, he replied:

"You must remember how sudden our marriage was, Edith. My little girl
had no time to learn to love me, or get used to me. Is it not right
that I should leave her in peace until I shall have won her heart as
well as her hand?"

Edith stared at him in wonder.

"Eliot Van Zandt, you are as blind as a bat!" she exclaimed, and darted
away without another word.

But although she would not say another word to Eliot, she made up her
mind to lecture Una.

So the first thing when Una opened her heavy eyes, she saw Edith
sitting demurely in the big willow rocker by the bedside.

She burst out unceremoniously:

"You lazy girl, you have slept until breakfast was over, and your
husband gone down-town. Poor boy! he waited and waited outside your
door for you to wake, but you just dreamed on until he had to go. I
told him to slip in and kiss you good-bye in your sleep, but he was
afraid you would be angry. I do say, Una Van Zandt, you ought to be
ashamed of yourself."

Una was sitting up in bed very wide awake indeed now, a lovely picture
of amazement and distress, with her loose, golden hair falling on her
half-bare, white shoulders, her eyes dilated with wonder, her cheeks
flushed from sleep.

"Oh, Edith, what have I done now? I don't know what you're talking
about," she faltered.

"Don't you, Mistress Van Zandt? Listen, then: I'm talking about what a
tyrant you are to my brother. Here you have been married to him almost
a year and I don't believe you've ever given the poor boy as much as a
kiss or one fond word. Do you think he is a stick or a stone, without
any feeling, that you behave so heartlessly? I tell you it made me
angry to see him this morning afraid to come inside this room to tell
you good-bye. Don't you know he has a right to be in this room with you
if he choose, only he is too afraid of you to assert himself? There
is no other man on earth half so good and chivalrous as Eliot. Fancy
Bryant being afraid to put his foot inside Sylvie's door. Why, they
both would tell you it was all nonsense. You treat Eliot--"

Una held out her hands entreatingly.

"Hush, Edith, don't scold me so," she begged, with quivering lips; but
she did not utter a word in her own defense. She was too wretched and
heart-sick, feeling that Eliot's fault, his persistent avoidance of his
wife, need not be held up to his sister's condemnation.

"Far rather would I shield him by letting the blame rest wholly upon
myself," she resolved, firmly.



CHAPTER XXXV.


Sylvie pretended to be very anxious that day over the appearance her
sisters-in-law would make at the theater-party.

"Have you anything new?" she inquired. "Because I have invited several
young ladies and gentlemen, and ordered a supper here after the
performance at the theater. Of course, I want you all to do credit to
Bryant."

"We haven't a new thing," declared Edith, lugubriously. "You and Ida
will have to uphold the honor of the family by your elegant dressing,
for Maud and I will be sure to look like dowdies."

Mme. Sylvie did not seem to take the information much to heart. She
said carelessly:

"And Eliot's wife?"

"Oh, she will be a dowdy, too," replied roguish Edith.

So Sylvie and Ida could scarcely believe their eyes that evening when
Maud and Edith sallied in, the dark-haired Maud in gold-colored satin,
red roses, and rubies, and Edith in lustrous rose-color with white lace
flounces, while diamonds flashed from her throat and ears. Both girls
looked as handsome in their way as the bisque dolls who were splendid
in Parisian toilets and a profusion of gleaming jewels.

Sylvie stared in amaze and jealous displeasure.

"You told me you had nothing fit to wear!" she exclaimed, acrimoniously.

"I beg your pardon--nothing new," Edith replied, dimpling with
mischief. "These are our mother's old dresses made over."

"But diamonds and rubies--I am sure Bryant told me that all your
mother's jewels were sold to help pay your father's debts when he
failed!" Sylvie exclaimed, in wonderment and displeasure.

"So they were," Maud answered. "But, Sylvie, these do not belong to us.
We borrowed them from Una."

Ida Hayes broke in with inexpressible anger and spite:

"I thought Eliot was too poor to give such jewels to his wife."

Edith flashed her a glance of scorn.

"Fortunately poverty is no disgrace, Ida," she said. "But Eliot did not
give them to Una. They were bridal presents from her Southern friends."

"Dear me, Sylvie! and you said she was poor and a nobody!" Ida
exclaimed, insolently, turning around to her sister.

"Eliot said so," Sylvie answered; and forthwith there began a war
of words that was fortunately stopped by Bryant's entrance, and his
instant laying on the table of the heated subject of debate.

On his part he was glad to see his young sisters so charmingly dressed
and looking so lovely. He took the exciting fact of Una's jewels with
manly equanimity.

"There is no reason why Una should not have them," he said. "Her
adopted father, Pierre Carmontelle, is one of the richest men in the
South. If he and his friends gave her costly bridal presents, it was no
more than she had a right to expect."

Sylvie and Ida dared say no more, but their thoughts were full of
rancor, and the former muttered, _sotto voce_:

"I suppose she will come down presently covered with diamonds!"

Meanwhile, quite a different scene was transpiring in Una's room
upstairs. Fifteen minutes ago, as she had stood before her mirror,
putting the last touches to her sweet, simple toilet, there had come a
light, quick rap at her door.

"Maud or Edith," she thought, and called out, carelessly: "Come in!"

The door opened softly, and Eliot, her husband, appeared on the
threshold, looking marvelously handsome in full evening-dress, a
bouquet of pure white flowers in one hand, a long, white box in the
other.

When he saw lovely Una standing there in the soft, white robe, with the
pearls around her bare, white throat, and her round arms uncovered,
save by the dainty white gloves, her dark eyes shining with innocent
joy at her own fairness, he uttered a cry of delight:

"Oh, Una, how angelic you look! But," dubiously, "do I intrude?"

"No," she answered, with a blush and tremor; so Eliot shut the door and
came to her side.

"I have brought you some flowers and an opera-cloak," he said, pulling
it out of the box and dropping it on her shoulders. It was a dainty
white cashmere affair, not costly but very pretty, with a shining
fringe of pearl and silver beads. With the white dress and flowers, it
made Una look bride-like and lovely as a dream.

"Does it suit you? Will it be warm enough?" he asked, with shining
eyes; and Una held out her hands to him with sudden tears on her lashes.

"Oh, how good you are to me, who should expect so little from you! How
can I ever requite your kindness?" she murmured, tremulously.

He caught the white hands in his, and drew the dainty white figure into
the clasp of his yearning arms.

"Only love me, my darling!" he whispered, passionately, against her
crimson cheek. "That will pay all."

She lay still, trembling with rapture in the close pressure of his fond
arms. She felt his kisses falling softly, warmly on her face, her lips,
her hair. At last she drew herself from him, saying, with rapturous
wonder:

"You really want me to love you, Eliot?"

Half smiling at her wondering tone, he exclaimed:

"What a strange question, Una! Have I not been waiting almost a year
for your heart to wake from its childish sleep and respond to mine? And
how else could you requite aught I have done for you? Do you not know,
my darling, that love must be paid in its own coin?"

Doubting, wondering, she looked up into those glorious blue-gray orbs
now full of a radiant fire impossible to describe. Something of the
truth dawned on her bewildered soul. She cried out impulsively:

"Oh, Eliot, then you do love me? And I have been so wretched, so
afraid, so--"

No more, for he had caught her in his arms, crushing her passionately
to his breast, whispering that he had loved her always, always, and had
grown so weary, so impatient waiting to win her heart.

"There was no need to wait if you had not been so blind," answered
truthful Una. "For I loved you, Eliot, from the very first!"



CHAPTER XXXVI.


If Edith had not come upstairs to see what kept Una dressing so
long, they would have forgotten all about the theater-party in their
absorption of each other. As it was, they started apart in surprise
when she came softly in.

"Oh, Eliot, I did not know you were here," she said, drawing back.

"Come in, Edith, and congratulate us," he said, drawing Una to his side
again. "We have just found out that we are in love with each other."

"Every one else knew that ages ago," replied the saucy girl, laughing.

But she kissed both with a great amount of girlish fervor, and to hide
her emotion, exclaimed:

"The carriages are waiting, and Sylvie is fuming with impatience, so
you had better bring your bride down-stairs, Eliot."

They went down together, and when the spiteful Sylvie saw the two
handsome, happy faces, she was more vexed than if Una had indeed been
covered with diamonds, as she had spitefully said. She could not help
seeing that a reconciliation had taken place between the two, and felt
instinctively that her cruel revelation to Una had precipitated the
understanding it was intended to avert.

But she could not avoid one poisoned shaft of malice at the happy girl,
and so, with a sneer, she exclaimed:

"Dear me! Una still posing as a bride at this late day? Your
wedding-day must have been a very happy one, since you love to recall
it so well."

No one replied to the impertinent speech, for all, even Bryant,
understood its spleen. Una only shrunk closer to her husband, and they
went out to the carriages that were waiting to convey them to the
theater.

Two boxes had been taken for the evening, and there were twelve in
the party, including the two ladies and three gentlemen that Sylvie
had invited. Una was very glad that Sylvie and Ida did not come into
the same box with herself and Eliot. Their cold, sneering looks made
her shiver and feel unhappy, so she was glad when she found Maud and
Edith with one other young lady and one gentleman as the evening's
companions.

The house was full, and the curtain had risen on the first act--a
brilliant scene with a fine setting. Mme. Leonie had not made her
appearance yet, and the audience felt at liberty to turn a good many
curious lorgnettes upon the handsome theater-party. Una, all in white,
with her waving golden hair, red lips, and large dark eyes, immediately
fixed attention. The murmur ran from lip to lip:

"A bride--a bride!"

Eliot saw what a sensation her beauty was creating, and smiled in
pride; but Una was too innocent to comprehend the truth. In fact, she
scarcely looked at the audience. Her eager eyes intently watched the
stage.

She was anxious to see the great actress of whom the newspapers spoke
in such lavish praise.

So, while the adoring young husband by her side kept his fond eyes on
her face, Una watched the stage, and her eagerness was soon rewarded by
a sight of Mme. Leonie.

Mme. Leonie was tall, beautiful, stately, and the black velvet robe,
starred with diamonds, in which she was assaying a queenly rôle, became
her well. Una gave a little gasp of honest admiration.

Mme. Leonie's voice rose on the air clear, sweet, shrill, and Eliot Van
Zandt turned with a quick start toward the stage.

At the same moment, he became aware that Una's little hand had clutched
tightly, spasmodically around his arm.

He looked into her face. Its usual pure, creamy pallor had deepened to
ashy whiteness, her dark eyes were wild and frightened.

"Una!"

"Oh, Eliot, look!" she whispered, tremblingly. "It is she--Madame
Lorraine!"

He turned his eyes to the stage, from which, a moment ago, that voice
had given him such a start.

Yes, Una was right. There she stood--the beautiful, cruel woman who had
doomed him to such an awful fate; who had made Una's life so bitter,
whose malice and spite had been so supremely fiendish--Mme. Lorraine!



CHAPTER XXXVII.


Every eye was turned to the stage, and tumultuous applause greeted the
appearance of the favorite, so no one noticed the agitation of the
young husband and wife who, tightly clasping each other's hands, stared
with loathing eyes at the beautiful actress.

It seemed to both an evil omen--this meeting with cruel, heartless Mme.
Lorraine in the first hour of their supreme happiness after the months
of doubt and reserve that had held them apart.

All unconscious of the eyes that watched her--the eyes she believed
closed forever in the sleep of death, the clever actress went on with
her part, and, shrinking closer to Eliot's side, Una whispered with a
strange, foreboding fear:

"Let us go home before she sees us. Do not let her find out that we are
still living."

Man-like, he smiled at her terror, and whispered back:

"My darling, we have nothing to fear from Madame Lorraine's hatred now.
Can you not trust to your husband to protect you?"

"Yes--oh, yes," the girl-wife murmured; but the chill foreboding of
evil did not leave her mind, and she shrunk back into the shadow of the
heavy box-curtain, praying in her heart that Mme. Lorraine's hateful
glance might not find her out.

Perhaps it might not have done so, for, to madame's credit be it said,
she did not ogle the boxes after the manner of some actresses. She was
intent on her part, and, beyond the knowledge that she had a large and
fashionable audience, she took no particular interest in the throng of
people.

But a perverse spirit had entered into Eliot Van Zandt, and seeing the
woman so cool, calm, and heartless, he longed to let her know that her
vengeance failed of its aim and her victims escaped her. He pictured
to himself her jealous, impotent fury when she should know that both
he and her Little Nobody lived, and that they were happily married and
beyond the reach of her venom.

And in that last belief he made his great mistake.

He whispered his thoughts to Una. In truth, he was longing to take his
exquisite vengeance on his enemy.

Una forced a smile of meek acquiescence. She said to herself that she
could not let her splendid young husband know what a little coward she
was, and how she feared her old tyrant and enemy.

At the close of the third act Eliot said, eagerly:

"Will you let me have your bouquet, Una? To-morrow I will bring you a
sweeter one."

With secret reluctance she let him have it. He wrote hurriedly a few
words on a card and attached it to the flowers.

Una looked over his shoulder. She read:

"Compliments of Eliot Van Zandt and his bride, the 'Little Nobody.'"

"Oh!" the girl cried, with a shiver; but Eliot had already thrown it
upon the stage at the feet of the tragedy queen, who was bowing and
smiling in response to an enthusiastic recall.

Among a dozen floral tributes she saw that pure, white, bride-like one
flung from the opera-box. She took it up, lifted it to her lips, and
bowed, then scanned the name written on the card, while Eliot watched
her with a triumphant smile, Una with nameless fear.

Eliot was quite curious to note what effect that startling card would
have upon the wicked actress. It seemed to him that she would be
stunned, that she would fall to the floor in abject terror, crying out
for mercy from him she had wronged.

Una, too, expected every instant that she would fall down unconscious,
overcome by fear and anger.

Neither one comprehended the stoicism, the incomparable will-power of
the gifted, wicked French woman.

Terrible and overwhelming as was the knowledge thus suddenly acquired,
Mme. Lorraine neither by word nor sign gave any evidence that she had
received a shock. She merely stood still--very still--for a minute or
so with her eyes riveted upon the card, and the audience, suspecting
nothing of this strange by-play, received the impression that the
writing on the card was rather illegible, hence the slowness of the
actress in deciphering the name.

At last, with an inward shudder, madame lifted her eyes from the bit
of pasteboard upon which she had been gazing as one looks at a serpent
hidden among flowers. Her glance went straight to the box where Eliot
and Una, so beautiful, so happy, in their youth and love, sat with
bated breath watching her face. She recognized them instantly; a subtle
smile dawned on her face, she bowed profoundly.

The audience, still unconscious of the truth, applauded madame's
graceful courtesy to the echo, and kissing the tips of her fingers,
smiling right and left, she retired.

Una drew a long, sobbing breath of relief as the beautiful woman
vanished from sight. Eliot smiled and whispered:

"She accepts her defeat with equanimity. Her self-command is admirable,
enviable."

"I am so glad she took it so coolly; I dare say she does not care,"
Una murmured, gladly, and some of the stifling fear and dread left her
heart.

If she could have looked behind the scenes into madame's dressing-room,
she would not have felt so confident.

Mima had to exert all her skill to bring her mistress up to the mark
to enable her to go on with the fourth and last act in the play.

Her agitation upon reaching the dressing-room had been great, and Mima
for a moment had been scarcely less shaken; but her nerves were very
strong, and she soon began to reassure Mme. Lorraine.

"It is nothing--pshaw! Do not let your mind be upset, madame. Be glad
that the fair-faced lad lives. Your conscience is that much lighter,
and for the rest, he was never worthy the passion of so magnificent a
woman!"

"He was the only man I ever loved!" madame cried, obstinately. "He was
splendid, whatever you say, Mima, and to think that she, the Little
Nobody, has come back from the very grave to part us, to win him from
me! Oh, it is bitter! I will not endure it. He was mad to fling that
defiance in my face. I will make him pay dearly, dearly for that
insolence!"

"Nonsense! You shall not get yourself into any more scrapes over that
boy!" Mima cried, angrily.

Mme. Lorraine laughed hysterically.

"You shall see," she said. "I will come between them; I will part them.
I swear it!"

"Nonsense!" Mima said again. "You do not even know where they live."

"I shall find out!" the actress cried, obstinately; and then she gave
vent to a sudden cry of shrill delight.

"Oh! oh!"

"What is it, then?" curtly.

"Fortune favors me. You know I am invited to a little _petit souper_
to-night after the theater. It is at the house of one of the Boston
_bon ton_, and the name on the card is 'Mrs. Bryant Van Zandt.'"

Even the imperturbable Mima started with surprise.

"Well?"

Madame laughed, and the laugh was not good to hear.

"I have no doubt they are relatives of my Yankee friend," she said.
"Perhaps, even they live in the same house. I shall be sure to go, and
then--_che sarâ, sarâ_!" Her voice had a fiendish threat in its angry
cadence.

She went back on the stage, smiling, insolent. She looked once or twice
into the box from whence the white flowers had been thrown to her, and
smiled whenever she looked. And Una's blood ran cold whenever she met
that smile. She instinctively felt that it was one of menace.

She was very, very glad when it was all over, and she could nestle by
Eliot's side in the carriage with her cold little hand in his.

Maud and Edith rode with them, but they did not utter one word to even
hint to them that Mme. Leonie, the actress, was Mme. Lorraine, the
wicked woman who had been so cruel to them in New Orleans.

Both said to themselves that it did not matter now. Let her enjoy her
fame, if she could, since out of her cruel plans had come their wedded
happiness.

She would leave Boston to-morrow for Philadelphia, where she was to
play next, and in all likelihood her path would never cross theirs
again.

So, dismissing the wicked woman from their minds, Eliot and Una waited
with the girls in the drawing-room for the coming of the rest of the
party who were a little late.

At last there was a bustle, a murmur of voices and laughter in the
hall--then entered Sylvie, Ida, and their guests--lastly Bryant Van
Zandt, on his arm--Mme. Leonie!

"Ah, girls! ah, Eliot!" Sylvie cried out, in pretty triumph. "See what
a charming surprise I have brought you. Madame Leonie will honor us by
taking supper under our roof."

Not a tremor on the part of the actress betrayed the fact that she had
ever seen before the two to whom she bowed with stately grace. For
them, they were too amazed by her matchless impudence to even remind
her of the past, and bowed coldly in acknowledgment of the introduction.

Turning away with Sylvie, they heard her say, in clear, full tones:

"Ah, Madame Van Zandt, what an aristocratic-looking young beauty is
Mrs. Eliot Van Zandt! She is no doubt of one of the finest old families
of Boston."

Sylvie's cruel voice answered maliciously:

"On the contrary, a little nobody that Eliot picked up somewhere on a
Southern tour."

The eyes of the young husband and wife met, his indignant, hers wet
with tears.

"After all, it is true, I am a little nobody," she said, faintly. "Oh,
Eliot," with sudden animation, "what if we should force Madame Lorraine
to tell us the truth to-night--to own frankly who and what I am?"

"You are Una Marie Van Zandt, and my wife. The past need not matter, my
darling," he replied, tenderly.

But the idea had taken complete possession of Una.

"Eliot, it maddens me to hear your brother's wife always flinging that
slur upon me--a little nobody! Let us force Madame Lorraine to tell
the truth to-night. She is in your power, for although her conspiracy
against your life failed, she is amenable to the law for the wicked
attempt. Let us seek a private interview with her, Eliot. Let us
threaten her, frighten her into the confession of my origin, however
humble," pleaded Una, with impassioned fervor.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.


Mme. Lorraine wormed Una's story out of Mrs. Van Zandt with the
greatest ease, Sylvie's spite making it an actual labor of love to
place her sister-in-law in the worst possible light before the great
actress who had deigned to express admiration for her beauty.

In a little while the wicked woman knew that which thrilled her with
cruel joy--that beautiful Una, living in the same house with Eliot and
bearing his name, had never been aught to him but his wife in name only.

"He never loved her, and would be glad if he had never seen her,"
Sylvie said, lying unblushingly in her hatred of Una.

Mme. Lorraine condoled with her in politest phrases, hiding her
exultation under an appearance of calmness. She said to herself:

"His wife in name only! It is not so bad as I thought. It will be easy
to part them now."

Her opportunity soon came without an effort of her own, through Una's
eagerness to find out the secret of her origin.

Eliot had consented to Una's wish, and immediately after the elegant
supper, which had been provided by the best caterer in Boston at
Sylvie's expense, he sought an opportunity to speak to her alone.

"Will Madame Leonie permit me the pleasure of showing her through
our little conservatory? We have a rare plant in bloom there--a
night-blooming cereus," he said.

Madame protested she would be delighted; slipped her jeweled hand
through his arm, and glided from the drawing-room by his side.

The night-blooming cereus was not a feint. It was really there, but so
also was Una standing by its side, pale and agitated, yet withal so
lovely, that madame said to herself, with something like contempt for
her companion:

"He must be cold-hearted, indeed, to withhold love from one so
beautiful."

Eliot began abruptly:

"Madame Lorraine, of course you know we recognized you immediately
to-night?"

The beautiful actress bowed mockingly.

"Of course."

He continued gravely:

"Then, perhaps you can guess why I have brought you here?"

Glancing maliciously from the pale, grave face of Eliot to the agitated
one of his wife, madame said, scoffingly:

"To congratulate you and your bride on your happiness, no doubt,
monsieur!"

"No; nor to reproach you with your wickedness," Eliot answered,
sternly, his handsome face pale and set, his splendid eyes full of
scorn. "I brought you here, madame, to say that in return for my
leniency in not denouncing you to the law for your attempt upon my
life, I demand at your hands one simple act of justice."

"Justice!" she echoed, vaguely.

"Yes, to me," said Una, drawing nearer. "Oh, Madame Lorraine, the time
is come at last when you must tell me who and what I am. You have
denied to me even a name, but however poor and obscure my origin, I
surely have a right to some name, and I can no longer bear Mrs. Van
Zandt's sneers at the mystery that infolds me. Speak, madame, and
dissipate the cloud that veils the past."

"Speak!" Eliot echoed, sternly.

Then there was a moment of terrible suspense and silence.

Madame had drawn back hurriedly from the two with an expression of
alarm and trouble on her mobile white face. At last:

"Oh, you know not what you ask!" she faltered, with emotion.

Growing ashen pale, Una cried out hoarsely:

"I am ready to hear--even the worst."

Eliot came to her side and drew her cold hand gently through his arm.

"Do not look so frightened, Una, my love," he said, gently. "If
madame speaks the truth, she will say you are well-born and of noble
parentage."

Madame gave him a look of fierce wrath and scorn.

"Are you so sure?" she sneered. "Better let me go, then, with your
fatal question unanswered, and hug that vain delusion to your breast."

Eliot answered dauntlessly:

"Most willingly, only for Una's sake. She has some natural curiosity on
the subject, and I have promised her it shall be gratified."

The beautiful face of Mme. Lorraine grew positively fiendish with the
evil smile that flashed across it.

"A true daughter of Eve," she said; "but your Una, as you call her, if
she persists in her curiosity, may purchase her knowledge at as bitter
cost as did the adventurous lady of Eden."

"I am not afraid of the truth, if you will only speak it and have
done, madame," Una cried out, impatiently; and Eliot felt her tremble
violently as she leaned against him.

Then both looked at the clever actress in surprise.

Her face had changed its expression, as if by magic, from hate and
scorn to softness, gentleness, and poignant regret. Her splendid orbs
were dim as with a mist of tears. Clasping her jeweled hands together
in strong agitation, she faltered, pleadingly:

"Do not press me so hard, for--oh, how can I tell you what you ask?"

"Do you mean that there is shame, disgrace, linked with--my birth--my
parentage?" Una demanded, almost wildly.

Mme. Lorraine gave her a cunning upward glance full of a sort of
contemptuous pity.

"Listen to me, both of you," she said; "I have wronged you both, but
Heaven knows how I repent of my evil deeds. I do not want to cause
any more sorrow to either of you, as I must do if I tell Una what she
asks. Therefore, let me go away, in silence, and be sure that in her
case ignorance is bliss."

"I will not believe you, Madame Lorraine, if you assert that aught of
shame belongs to the parentage of my wife," Eliot said, hotly, and she
uttered a long, long sigh.

"Whatever it is, I have a right to some name, however humble," Una
said; but Mme. Lorraine preserved a silence that was significant.

Eliot drew his arm tenderly about Una's waist, as he said:

"Dearest, you have a right to one of the proudest names in Boston. Why
trouble your little head about the past?"

But Una was obstinate. Sylvie's sneers had made her bitter and
determined.

She looked with dark, impatient eyes into the face of the woman who
hated her with relentless hate.

"Speak, madame," she said, icily. "Do you not see that you must reveal
the secret now, whatever it be, that has thrown its stigma over my
life?"

"I am in your power, monsieur; you can denounce me for my attempted
crime, if I refuse to answer you," madame said, looking at Eliot. "Do
you still insist?"

He looked at Una; she murmured "Yes" through pale, determined lips, but
she did not see the covert triumph in the eyes of her foe.

"Very well, then," said the actress, with a heavy sigh. She looked at
Eliot with grave eyes. "Monsieur Van Zandt, I must make at least one
condition," she exclaimed.

"Yes?" he said, inquiringly.

"It is this: you will leave me alone with your wife while I reveal to
her her name and true identity. It will be best thus. The secret will
then be her own, and it will be optional with her whether she should
reveal it to you or not."

He bowed affirmatively.

"I have no objection to your plan, madame, and small curiosity over
your secret. Whatever you may reveal to Una, it will in nowise lessen
my regard for my wife."

He went out and left them together.

Mme. Lorraine turned her vindictive eyes upon Una hissing fiercely:

"Do you not know that you are very foolish in this matter? Would I have
treated you as I did for fifteen years, if you had not been--"

"What?" asked Una, impatiently, as she paused significantly, and
regarded her with angry, scornful eyes.

Bending forward until her writhing lips almost touched the small,
pink ear of the girl, Mme. Lorraine finished her broken sentence in a
hissing voice like that of a serpent.

It was as if Mme. Lorraine had struck the girl upon the face. She
reeled backward with a low, gasping, terrified cry, and sunk to the
floor.

       *       *       *       *       *

Eliot waited almost an hour in the drawing-room for madame to return,
and Mrs. Van Zandt grew angry and impatient at the detention of her
guest by that Little Nobody. Eliot made all the excuses he could. They
were talking about the flowers; Mme. Leonie loved them so dearly, etc.
At last he went in search of the two.

Madame was just emerging from the conservatory with a smile of triumph
on her handsome face.

As he would have passed her, she detained him with a hand laid heavily
on his arm.

"Do not go to her yet. She desired me to keep you away from her a
little while until she can collect her thoughts and decide whether it
is best to share her terrible secret with you or not."

"But surely she needs me now," he said, quailing at the words. "Her
terrible secret!"

"She prefers to be alone, she said," madame returned, so positively
that he decided, against his sense of duty, to humor Una's whim. He
guessed it was not a pleasant revelation madame had made among the
warm, sweet odors of the dim conservatory.

The actress returned to the drawing-room, made her adieus, and
departed. Then the rest of the party broke up, and the family retired
to their several apartments. Eliot went to the conservatory for Una.

"I can not leave her alone any longer in her trouble, poor child!" he
thought, with a heart full of tenderness.

To his surprise, the flowery retreat was quite deserted.

"She has stepped out unperceived in the confusion of the leave-takings,
and gone to her room," he decided, and a yearning impulse led him to
seek her there.

He knocked at first softly on the door, and receiving no reply, entered
quietly, feeling that she needed him in the distress she was enduring
over madame's revelation.

But the room, like the conservatory, was deserted.

Over the dressing-table the gas was burning brightly. Eliot's eyes
quickly detected an envelope lying just beneath the light that bore in
large characters his own name.



CHAPTER XXXIX.


He stood staring with frightened eyes at the white envelope, with its
large black letters formed in Una's crude handwriting, dreading to
touch it, for a swift instinct told him the truth.

She had left him, he felt quite sure--left him almost in the very hour
when the discovery of their mutual love for each other had paved the
way to their wedded happiness. Mme. Lorraine, like the serpent crawling
into Eden, had brought woe and pain where love and joy had reigned.

All this flashed over him instinctively as he took the letter in his
hand and tore it open, devouring in fierce haste the brief, sad note
Una had written such a little while ago that the ink was scarcely dry
upon the page.

  "This is my farewell to you, Eliot," it said. "I have learned the
  secret of my identity. Forgive me that I shrink from revealing it
  to you. I can only say that it comes between us, and divides us as
  effectually as the grave itself. I have left you forever. Do not seek
  to trace me, for nothing can ever induce me to live with you again.
  Give up the thought of me and obtain a divorce (it will be easy, for,
  thank Heaven, I have never been your wife, save in name only), then
  you can marry Ida Hayes, whom you loved before you ever saw me. God
  bless you for all your goodness to me. If you had known who I was
  that time in New Orleans, you need not have sacrificed yourself for
  my sake. God bless my--yes, I will presume to call them sisters this
  once--Maud and Edith! I have left them the jewels they wore to-night
  in memory of Una, to whom they were so kind. Forget me, Eliot, as
  soon as you can, for I am all unworthy of your name and your love.

                                                     "LITTLE NOBODY."

She had deliberately signed the name she hated so much, and he knew
that her humility must have been great to drive her to such an act.
With a groan he sunk into a chair and buried his face in his hands.

"How could she, with her beauty and innocence, her high-bred air and
noble soul, be lowly, even shamefully born, as this letter would have
me believe?" he exclaimed. "No, no; it is only another of that wicked
woman's falsehoods. She has taken Una with her, out of hatred for my
darling and envy of our happiness. There can be nothing strong enough
to come between us, my little love and I. Oh, why did I leave them
alone together? I might have known that serpent's wiles. But I will
follow and bring them back! Fortunately it is not too late."

But he was mistaken, for when he reached madame's hotel, half an hour
later, he was told that she had left Boston by the 1:30 train.

"Just thirty minutes too late!" he muttered, wildly, and the sleepy
night-clerk of the hotel looked at him in contemptuous amazement. He
thought he must be some demented admirer of Mme. Leonie.

Eliot knew that madame's next engagement was in Philadelphia, and he
determined that he would follow by the next train.

"Will she have the temerity to take Una with her, or will she try to
hide her from me? The latter, most likely," he thought, sadly, and a
presentiment grew upon him that his lovely girl-wife was lost to him
forever.

But he followed the actress by the next train to Philadelphia, only to
learn that she had never arrived there. At a heavy cost, she had made
her manager cancel her engagement, and neither herself nor the manager
could be found there, nor a clew obtained to their whereabouts.

Just as suddenly as she had returned to the stage, she disappeared from
it, and the mystery of her disappearance was the topic of newspaper
paragraphs for some days.

Only one of the journalistic fraternity had any idea of the cause of
her flight, and he was too proud and bitter to give it to the world.

To his own family, under strict bonds of secrecy, he confided the
truth, and Maud and Edith were indignant at the thought that wicked
Mme. Lorraine had dared come beneath their roof, and loud in their
protestations of disbelief in the story that there was a stain on Una's
birth.

But Bryant, Sylvie, and Ida preserved a significant silence that told
more plainly than words their belief that all had happened for the
best. They hoped secretly that Eliot would get a divorce, as Una had
told him to do.



CHAPTER XL.


After the space of five years, let us look in again upon the Van
Zandts.

Eliot Van Zandt has a guest.

Pierre Carmontelle!

For five years the noble Louisianian has been a wanderer in foreign
lands. He has returned at last cured of his passion for the girl he had
loved, strong enough now to witness her happiness with another.

Not since the day when he bid farewell to Eliot and his bride has he
heard aught of their fate until now, when, strong in the consciousness
of his conquered love, he goes to Boston, determined to visit the happy
pair before his return South.

"I shall see Van Zandt grown portly and important, the Little Nobody of
old matronly and magnificent," he said to himself, with a smile.

Fancy the shock of the reality when he found Eliot a grave, sad man,
old beyond his years through the influence of sorrow for the young wife
lost so strangely out of his life.

It was several minutes after Eliot had told him his story before he
could utter a word, so greatly was he affected by what had been told
him. Then he called down the vengeance of Heaven on the head of the
wicked woman.

Eliot's grave, sad face, with its lines of suffering, told plainer than
words all that he had endured.

"Surely you pursued them?" cried Carmontelle.

"As long as my means lasted--yes," said Van Zandt. "But that was such
a little while. You know I had so little beyond my salary, and--there
were my two sisters."

"You should have written to me."

"I did--your letter was returned to me--you had sailed for Europe."

"And not a clew in all these years?"

"None."

"I need not ask if you have taken Una's advice and procured a divorce?"
Carmontelle said, with quiet comprehension of the other's pale, grave
face that flushed slightly, as he answered:

"I am bound to Una while I live, although I have given up all hope of
ever seeing her again."

Carmontelle's steady eyes went over the worn sheet of paper on which
Una had traced her pathetic farewell to her husband.

"And Miss Hayes, whom she says here you loved before your marriage?" he
said, abruptly.

"I can not tell how she fell into such an error. Miss Hayes is my
brother's sister-in-law. She visited here often, but we were never more
than friends," Eliot answered, quietly, all unsuspicious of Sylvie's
treachery.

Then the ladies of the house came in, and the conversation drifted to
other subjects.

Sylvie was the same exquisitely dressed doll; but five years had
changed Maud and Edith from pretty, vivacious girls to quiet, dignified
young ladies. In Maud there was a greater change than in Edith, and the
secret lay in the failure of her beloved novel.

Three years ago the cherished book had been given to the world, and the
cruel critics had ridiculed the immature work of the girl, saying that
the wild flights of fancy, so fresh, so buoyant, could have emanated
from none but a young, inexperienced brain knowing nothing of the hard,
cruel world.

Pretty, tender Maud did not have the spirit of a Byron to retort on
her critics and write, despite their sneers, so she laid down her pen,
as she said, forever, and nearly broke her heart in bitter humiliation
over her cruel failure. So there lay the secret of the beauty so
ethereally frail that one fancied, in looking at her, that the spirit
would soon plume its wings for another world.

Edith was made of different metal. When the picture on which she had
spent so much time was voted as great a failure as Maud's book, she
shed a few bitter tears, brushed them away, and began again.

On her easel had stood, for some time, an unfinished portrait of Una.
Turning to this now, she made a fancy picture of it, and boldly called
it Una.

Upon this portrait rested Edith's fame. When exhibited, it created a
great sensation. She had many offers for it, but she rejected all to
present the portrait to her brother. He was deeply moved, and declared
that the gift of a fortune would not have pleased him so much.

So Edith's fame was established. A few copies of the beautiful "Una"
found ready sale. Then there came in orders for portraits. She had her
own beautiful studio now, and made money enough to buy her own dresses,
and Maud's, too; so Eliot was free now, but he had never begrudged the
manly aid he lent to his sisters. Even now he spent very little for
himself, but went on laying up his small savings carefully for Una, if
she should ever come back.

Pierre Carmontelle, who had traveled five years to get cured of an
attack of the _grande passion_, fell straight into Cupid's net again
when he encountered Maud's pensive beauty. She, on her part, was
attracted to this noble man of forty-odd years as she had never been to
younger ones who had bowed at her shrine.

Never did anything come about more suddenly; for the Southerner, who
had expected to remain in Boston only a day, stayed a month, and at the
expiration of that time Maud was his promised wife.

Of course they had talked to each other about Una, and when Maud wanted
to defer the bridal-day six months, Carmontelle said, artfully:

"Do not make it so long as that, my darling, because you and I want to
go in search of Una just as soon as we are married, do we not?"

"Yes," she answered eagerly; and thereupon agreed to get ready to be
married in two months.

Sylvie said that it was all hurried up in the worst of taste. She had
not believed Maud would be so ready to snap up a rich man; but--ah!
well, your romantic, novel-writing folks had an eye to the main chance,
like everybody else.

Edith answered daringly:

"Why not say at once, Sylvie, that you're envious because Maud is going
to be as rich as you are? Goodness knows, I'm glad one of the Van
Zandts will be rich at last, so that you will not be able always to
fling our poverty in our faces!"



CHAPTER XLI.


Maud declared that the trousseau must be a very simple and quiet one,
since almost everything must come from the pockets of Eliot and Edith.

But the brother and sister overruled her objections.

"As if we had any other use for our savings!" cried Edith. "We are
going to spend every penny. Do you think we are going to let our sister
go to her rich husband plain and shabby?"

So the order was given for several very handsome dresses, among them an
ivory white satin, veiled in lace, for the bridal-dress.

But before the bills came in from milliners and modistes the young
authoress was able to pay them out of her own purse.

And it came about in this wise.

About four weeks after her engagement to the rich Southerner she
received a visit from her Boston publisher.

He put into her hand a check for several hundred dollars, the receipts
from her novel which until now had not paid for the first costs of its
publication.

"I congratulate you, Miss Van Zandt," he said. "Your novel is suddenly
becoming popular. The book-sellers report numerous calls for it, and in
consequence I have large orders."

Maud's lip quivered, and her blue-gray eyes, so like Eliot's, dimmed
with happy tears.

"At last!" she exclaimed, joyously. "Oh, I had ceased to hope or expect
anything!"

"I have taken pains to inquire into the cause of your success after the
unfriendliness of the critics had so long injured its sale," he said;
"and I have found out that the real merits of your novel have at last
been discovered and revealed by a friendly critic."

"I thought they were all my mortal foes!" she exclaimed.

He smiled, and answered:

"Not this one, at least, for he or she has been very frank, as well as
very just. While the defects of your book are plainly acknowledged, its
many beauties and merits are enthusiastically dwelt upon, and the fact
of the author's tender youth is eloquently dilated on in excusing its
faults."

The girl's sweet eyes dilated wildly.

"Who could have known that?" she asked him.

"I can not tell. I understood that the writer is a reviewer of books
for a noted New York magazine. I have not learned the name, but I will
find it out for you, Miss Van Zandt," promised the genial publisher.

"Pray, do so, if possible; and also please get the magazine containing
the friendly review of my poor book. It will make me so happy to read
it, and to write a letter of thanks to my good angel!" she exclaimed,
fervently.

Smiling at her enthusiasm, and promising to gratify her desire, the
publisher took leave, and the very next day sent her the magazine.

How gladly, how happily the young heart beat as her eager eyes
devoured the column of reviews, and at last fell on "The Fatal Roses,"
her own romantic and high-flown novel, over whose non-success she had
shed such bitter, burning tears.

But they were tears of joy that glittered on her lashes now, as she
went eagerly over the two full columns that had been given to "The
Fatal Roses" by one who signed the, to Maud, startling name of "Una."

"Una!" she cried out, wildly, and ran to seek Eliot, who was in the
library with her intended husband.

"Eliot! oh, Eliot, look! Our own darling Una!" she exclaimed, wildly,
pointing with her taper finger at the startling name.

Scarcely less agitated than herself, he took the review and read it
hurriedly, then passed it to Carmontelle.

"Can it be my Una?" he exclaimed, pale and agitated, his heart beating
wildly.

But the face of Pierre Carmontelle looked calm and grave.

"Dear Eliot, dear Maud, do not give yourself up too ardently to hope,"
he said. "This may prove but a coincidence. The name may have been
chosen as a _nom de plume_ by the writer."

"My publisher promised to find out the name of the critic, if
possible," Maud said; and to him Eliot went at once in a fever of
anxiety.

Mr. Dudley could not give him any satisfaction. He had written to the
New York publisher, asking for information, but had not yet received
his reply. As soon as it came, he would be happy to lay his letter
before Miss Van Zandt and her brother.

It was almost a week before the reply came, and Mr. Dudley forwarded it
at once to Maud.

The New York publisher wrote that he was unacquainted with his able
critic, save by the name of Una. All his business with her was
transacted through a Boston banker, whose name he gave, and whom the
Van Zandts knew as the head of one of the most influential banks in the
city.

"She is here, then, in this very city, my lost Una--so near and 'yet so
far!'" groaned Eliot. "But I shall go at once to Mr. Chesterton, with
whom I have long had a friendly acquaintance."

He went and elicited simply nothing. The great banker would give him no
information.

"I am not at liberty to speak one word on the subject, although I would
gladly oblige you, Van Zandt, were it in my power!" he cried, affably.

"At least tell me if Una is young, and if it is a real name, or a _nom
de plume_," pleaded Eliot.

"I regret that I am not at liberty to answer your questions," repeated
courteous Mr. Chesterton.

Baffled, but almost convinced by all this mystery that Maud's friendly
critic was none other than his lovely, lost Una, Eliot went away in
despair, and found a comforter in Carmontelle.

"Leave it to me, Eliot, and I will find out all about the little
runaway," he said, confidently.

He went to a directory and found out the residence of Mr. Chesterton, a
stately brown-stone residence in a fashionable and aristocratic street.

A day or two later he said to Van Zandt:

"I have found out all about the members of Mr. Chesterton's family. He
has a handsome young wife, three small children, and a beautiful young
governess."

"Una!" Eliot cried, with a start.

"Perhaps so; but we must not be too sure. I have not seen her yet,"
said Carmontelle.

"But you will do so soon?" anxiously.

A week later he came to Eliot where he sat with his sisters in the
library, their favorite room, for here Sylvie seldom obtruded her
presence.

Maud, so lovely and happy now that she did not look like the pensive
girl of a month ago, sprung up impetuously and caught his arm.

"Oh, you look so happy, you surely found our darling girl!"

Taking Eliot's and Edith's indulgence for granted, he pressed a light
kiss on her pure brow.

"You have guessed aright," he answered, "I have seen Mr. Chesterton's
governess. She calls herself Mademoiselle Lorraine, and teaches French
to the little Chestertons, but she is indeed no other than our Una."

"Thank Heaven!" Eliot cried, springing up, "I will go to her at once."

"Nonsense! She will not receive you," said his friend, and Eliot flung
himself down again with a groan.

"Listen," said Pierre Carmontelle, "Mademoiselle Lorraine goes out
every afternoon to walk with her little charges. She is always closely
veiled, and sometimes she walks past this very house, and looks up at
the windows with eyes full of sadness. I saw her myself to-day, and
recognized her in spite of her thick veil. I followed her, and when
near the gate, I spoke to her; but afterward I was almost sorry I had
done so, she was so terribly frightened."

"Frightened!--but why?" cried Maud.

And Eliot echoed bitterly:

"Why?"

"I can not tell you, I only know that she did not accord me any
welcome. She only looked sorry and frightened and cried out sharply:
'Oh, you have hunted me down! This is cruel, cruel; but, oh, Monsieur
Carmontelle, for God's sake, do not betray me to Eliot--to Mr. Van
Zandt.'"

"And then?" cried Edith, breathlessly.

"Then her little pupils came around her and hurried her inside the
gate. She looked back at me, waved her little gloved hand imploringly,
and cried out again, 'Do not betray me to Eliot, or any one.' Then she
vanished inside the banker's door."

They sat looking sadly, and yet gladly, at one another. At least she
lived, poor darling, and was out of the power of the wicked woman whose
malice had lured her from home and love.

"If I could only see her, only speak to her, my poor little Una, I am
sure I could win her confidence!" Eliot exclaimed, passionately.

"You are right; and indeed you must see her now," answered his friend.
"Una must give you her confidence, must come home to you. It is not
right that she, your wife, and my adopted child, should be slaving her
young life away like this through some fancied duty."

"I must see her. I will go to Mr. Chesterton since she denies me a
sight of her. I will tell him my story, I will ask him to plead my
cause with Una," Eliot exclaimed, in strong agitation; and just a
little later he stood before the banker's mansion ringing the bell, and
looking up in the darkness at the front of the great house, thrilling
with the thought that his loved, lost bride was so near to him at this
moment, that it seemed almost impossible but that they must soon come
face to face.

"And if she loves me still, as she said she did that happy night before
she left me, I swear that no earthly power shall ever tear her again
from my arms!" he vowed to himself.

Mr. Chesterton was at home, and received his guest in the library with
courteous surprise; but when the young man poured forth his agitated
story, the banker became greatly interested and excited.

"You are right. She is, she must be your wife. She came to us two years
ago from the Convent of Le Bon Berger in New Orleans. My wife was once
a pupil there, and wrote to the mother superior for a French teacher
for our little ones. She sent us Mademoiselle Lorraine, who is as
gifted and clever as she is lovely and winning. But I have always seen
that she lay beneath the shadow of some sorrow. Wait, my young friend,
and I will go upstairs and beg this proud young wife to give you an
immediate interview," concluded the good man.



CHAPTER XLII.


Eliot waited in the large, elegant library with eager impatience, never
doubting that Mr. Chesterton would succeed in his kindly mission. Una
could not be so cruel as to refuse him an interview.

"And once in her presence I will combat every objection she can raise
until I persuade her to go home with me," he said to himself, firmly,
and his heart began to beat lightly, happily, with the thought that
soon Una would be with him, never to be torn from him again.

"It is five years since I saw her. She was scarcely more than a child
then. Now she is a woman, beautiful, gifted, intelligent. Oh, how I
long to be wealthy, for the sake of my fair young wife!" he thought.

Then it dawned upon him that the banker was staying a long time. The
bronze clock on the mantel had chimed the quarters of an hour twice
while he had sat there all alone.

"He finds her hard to persuade," he exclaimed, rising from his chair
and beginning to pace restlessly up and down the floor.

Five, ten minutes elapsed. Then there came a step at the door. The
handle turned. Mr. Chesterton entered--alone.

Eliot turned to him in unutterable dismay.

"Una!" he exclaimed, hoarsely, then paused, speechless. He saw a
folded slip of paper in the banker's hand, and on his genial face
disappointment and regret.

"Van Zandt, I am sorry for you, upon my word!" he said, feelingly. "I
used all my eloquence, but I have failed. She gave me this note for
you," he added, thrusting the slip of paper into Eliot's hand.

He took it in a dazed, lifeless way, opened it slowly, and read the
words written in an elegant flowing hand, very different from the
cramped, childish one in which Una had penned her farewell to him five
years ago.

  "Oh, forgive me," it ran, "but I can not see you now, or ever again
  in this world. What I wrote you when I left you five years ago
  remains unchanged. There is a barrier between us cruel as the grave.
  You must seek freedom from the nominal tie that binds you to me. Then
  you will forget me and find happiness with some woman more blessed
  by fate than I have been. For me, I shall convince you that our
  separation is irrevocable by returning at once to New Orleans, there
  to enter a convent and take the veil for life.                UNA."

The cruel letter fell from his hand, and staggering heavily forward,
Eliot dropped into a chair and bowed his face on the table.

"Van Zandt!" exclaimed the banker.

There was no reply.

Rushing to Eliot's side, he lifted his head from the table, and it fell
again heavily. The young man's overwrought feelings had culminated in
momentary unconsciousness.

A sharp peal of the bell brought the servants rushing to the scene, but
not so soon but that Mr. Chesterton heard a gasp of terror from behind
the curtains that divided the library from a pretty little parlor.
Poor Una had crept in there for one stolen glimpse of the face of her
beloved.

The banker saw the lovely, frightened face peering around the curtain,
and said, sharply:

"Mrs. Van Zandt, I fear you have killed your husband!"

With a stifled wail, she rushed forward and flung herself on her knees
beside Eliot's unconscious form, catching his limp hands in both her
warm, trembling white ones.

"Dead! Oh, no, no, Mr. Chesterton, do not charge me with such cruelty!"
she cried, gazing with straining eyes into that pale, handsome face.
Her touch, her voice, her gaze, seemed to recall him to life, for
suddenly his eyes opened wide on that lovely face. A cry of dismay
broke from her lips, and dropping his hands, she rushed through the
curtains and disappeared just as two servants entered at the other door.

"Bring water and wine," said the banker. "This gentleman is ill."

Both disappeared at once, and Eliot Van Zandt struggled up to a sitting
posture, gazing wildly around the room.

"Una--she was here!" he murmured, faintly.

"She has gone," Mr. Chesterton answered, gravely. "Drink this wine, Van
Zandt, it will revive you."

"No; the water, please."

He swallowed a few drops, and rose to go in spite of Mr. Chesterton's
entreaties that he would stay until he was better.

"I am all right. It was but a temporary faintness. Heaven bless you for
your kindness to a miserable man, Mr. Chesterton," said Eliot, wringing
his friend's hand fervently.

Then he repossessed himself of Una's note that he had dropped on the
floor, and went out of the room with a ghastly face. Mr. Chesterton,
alarmed at his looks, followed him at a discreet distance until he
saw him enter a car that would take him straight to Beacon Hill, then
bethinking himself of an engagement he had for that evening, he hurried
back home to don evening-dress and escort his beautiful wife to a
soirée.

Returning home in the small hours, he concluded to make a confidante
of his wife and enlist her sympathies in Eliot Van Zandt's case.

"What a romantic story!" exclaimed Mrs. Chesterton. "But I always
thought there was something very interesting hidden in the past of our
gifted governess. So she is a Van Zandt--one of the oldest, proudest
names in Boston. My dear, I will speak to her in the morning, and see
if I can not untangle the strange web of fate that has been woven
around her life by that wicked Madame Lorraine."

"I knew your sympathies would be drawn to this unhappy pair,
Constance!" exclaimed the banker, fondly.

But, alas! his story had been told too late. Morning found the young
governess gone.

She had left the house during their absence, and taken her trunks with
her, flying like a thief in the night, not from pursuit, not from
shame, but from a husband's love, the deepest, fondest, most passionate
that ever thrilled a manly breast.

"I must take the veil, then he will understand that all hope is indeed
ended," she said, resolutely to herself. "I had no business returning
here. Father Quentin told me it was wrong, but in my mad yearning to
see his face, I would not listen. Now I must go back and stay there
forever. Eliot will soon forget me, for it was more pity than love
that he felt for me. When he realizes that all is irrevocably at an
end between us, he will seek his freedom that he may return to his old
love, his first love, Ida Hayes."

With the thought of her rival, all the old-time bitter jealousy rushed
over Una's heart, and she told herself that Eliot had never really
loved any one but Ida, and that he could not but rejoice some day that
fate had freed him from the incubus of Little Nobody.

"I have spoiled his life for years, but at last he will be happy,"
she said, thinking bitterly of that year in which she had lived with
Eliot, less to him, as she thought, than his sisters, or the governess
even, wearing his name because it had been given not in love, but
through an instinct of tender pity.

She was older, wiser, now than she had been before Sylvie made that
cruel revelation to her that winter night, and she chafed with shame at
remembering the position she had filled in Eliot's home--that of a wife
in name only, unloved and barely endured.

"How they must have pitied and despised me!" she thought, with hot
tears in her dark eyes as the express train rushed along through the
night. "Ah, it is better, better for us both that things fell out as
they did. I have a very jealous mind. I should never have forgotten
that he loved Ida Hayes first, that he married me for pity's sake, so
I never should have been quite sure of his heart. Ah, I wish--wish,"
with a choking sob, "that we had died together in madame's underground
prison!"

And in this wretched frame of mind, bitter and despairing, Una went
away from Boston and her husband, back to the South and the Convent of
Le Bon Berger.



CHAPTER XLIII.


Before the wedding-day rolled around Maud and her betrothed had
persuaded Edith and Eliot to accompany them on their wedding-journey
South. In fact, they were not hard to persuade, for Eliot, in a mood
of desperation, felt almost ready to storm the convent walls and carry
away his beloved, obdurate Una, while Edith was charmed at the idea
of rushing so precipitately from the icy streets and freezing wind of
Boston to the sunshine and flowers of a warmer clime.

So, one bright March morning, about six years from the time of Eliot's
former visit to New Orleans, the party found themselves driving through
the streets of the Crescent City to the palatial home of Pierre
Carmontelle, which, during the two months of his betrothal to Maud,
had been elegantly refitted for his bride.

New Orleans was in a great stir and bustle then, for it was the first
year of the Southern Exposition. The city was crowded with visitors
from all parts of the United States.

Maud and Edith were charmed with the quaint old city, and the warm,
sweet air, and took the greatest pleasure in threading the Exposition
grounds, exclaiming with delight when now and then they encountered the
familiar faces of Northern friends, sight-seeing like themselves.

They were so busy daily "doing" the Exposition, that Eliot and
Carmontelle did not get time to go down to the club, or they would have
heard news that would have surprised them.

It came upon them suddenly one day, when, on leaving the Exposition
grounds, the four came face to face with an entering couple--M. Remond,
the wicked Frenchman, and the no less wicked Mme. Lorraine.

Madame was clinging to the arm of the dark-faced, elegant-looking
Remond. She was in a tasteful Parisian costume, smiling and insolent,
and looking not a day older than she did six years ago.

When she met the startled regard of those four pairs of eyes, she
uttered an exclamation of amazement, and her cheek momentarily whitened
through its rouge. The next instant her insolent courage returned. She
smiled a bright, cold, conventional smile, bowed, and passed quickly on
with her companion.

The others looked at each other with startled eyes.

"What does it mean?" queried Eliot Van Zandt, hoarsely.

"Let us call at the club to-night, and perhaps we can find out
something," answered his brother-in-law.

They went accordingly, and great was the sensation created among their
old friends by their reappearance after the lapse of years. Markham,
the bachelor, was there, with some crow's-feet about the eyes and gray
hairs in his brown locks to attest the flight of time. When questioned
about Remond and Mme. Lorraine, he replied, laughing:

"Fancy their hardihood in coming here for their wedding-tour. They are
married, you know."

"No!"

"Fact! It was announced in our papers two months ago. Married in Paris,
and came here a week ago. I am told that they are staying at madame's
house on Esplanade Street, but none of the Jockey Club has called on
the wretches."

"One there is who will call," Carmontelle said, boldly. "What say you,
Van Zandt? Shall we go to Esplanade Street and have it out with that
fiendish woman?"

Eliot looked rather mystified, but he signified his assent.

"I will go, but--when?" he asked, and his friend answered:

"Now."

"Oh, I say, lads, put it off till to-morrow," cried the gay Markham. "I
should like to go and back you up in the row, but I have an engagement
for this evening."

"Sorry, but can't wait," Carmontelle answered. "Come, Eliot. Markham,
adieu. You and the club will call at the Magnolias? Introduce you to my
bride and her sister. Handsomest girls in Boston, and both geniuses."

"Thank you--only too happy to accept your kind invitation," Mr. Markham
said, genially; and then they were out in the street, bound for the
presence of the woman who had wrought such woe to Eliot Van Zandt and
his lovely bride.

"Your object?" Eliot asked his friend, dubiously.

"Can you not guess? She shall tell us the tale she told Una that night
in Boston, and we shall be the judges as to whether the barrier is
great enough to separate you and your wife forever. Who knows but
that Una, in her strange commingling of pride and humility, may have
exaggerated the trouble?"

"I have always thought so--always believed that I could overthrow all
her objections, and win her back if only I could have an interview with
her again," Eliot said; then, sighing, "But I shall never have the
chance. She will never come out of that grim convent again."

"Who knows? We will hope so, anyhow;" and then they were silent until
their carriage drew up before the front of madame's well-remembered
house, once so familiar to the club in the days when she was such a
fascinating siren and kept all her wickedness carefully hidden in the
background.

Lights glimmered brightly in the front of the house. The prim, ugly
Mima opened the door to them and frowned darkly.

Was Mme. Lorraine at home? She took their cards and said, curtly, that
she would see if Mme. Remond was in.

In another moment she came back and ushered them into the pretty salon.
Remond was present, but retreated with a scowl upon their entrance.

The bride, all in silvery white silk cut _décolleté_, with diamonds
shimmering on arms and breast, rose smilingly and bowed.

"This is an unexpected honor!" she said, with insolent _empressement_.

"You know to what cause to attribute the honor," Pierre Carmontelle
said, icily.

"No," with a puzzled, inquiring tone; then, with a roguish ripple of
laughter, "Ah, to congratulate me on my marriage, I suppose?"



CHAPTER XLIV.


"Scarcely," answered Carmontelle, dryly, for Eliot Van Zandt seemed
to have no words at his command. He could only gaze in horror at the
vindictive woman. The former went on curtly, and in tones of calm
authority: "We are here, madame, to hear from your own lips the strange
story with which you sundered two loving hearts five years ago."

A sneer curled the lips of the handsome, heartless woman.

"You use romantic phrases, monsieur," she said.

"But true ones," he replied.

"Well?"

"We are waiting to hear the story you told Mr. Van Zandt's wife--the
story that parted them," he answered again.

She shot a quick, inquiring glance at Eliot's agitated face.

"But you--you are divorced and married again, monsieur, are you not?"

"No," he answered; "I shall never have any other wife but her whom you
drove from me by your treachery that night."

Madame was genuinely puzzled this time, for she exclaimed:

"But Mrs. Bryant Van Zandt told me you hated Little Nobody, and would
have married her sister Ida, only for the circumstances that forced you
into a hated marriage."

"It is false! I never loved Ida, nor one but the girl I made my wife!"
exclaimed Eliot, indignantly; and his brother-in-law added:

"He loved Una from the first time he met her here, and when she was
imprisoned with him in your secret cellar, she must have died of
starvation but that he opened a vein in his arm and fed the dying girl
with his own blood. Does not that prove the love he had for his wife?"

A bitter, ghastly change came over madame's rouged face, with a gasp,
she reeled backward into a chair, and lifted her heavy eyes to Eliot's
face.

"You loved her like that?" she cried; "and I--oh, I believed that
you hated her! I was so glad, so glad! But--yes, it is better so; my
revenge is more complete, for I have made you both suffer where I
believed that it was only her heart I broke!"

"Fiend!" exclaimed Eliot.

And Carmontelle echoed:

"Fiend!"

The angry woman only laughed mockingly, as she said:

"Revenge is sweet! You scorned me, Eliot Van Zandt, for that slip of a
girl, and now I have my pay!"

And throwing back her handsome head against the silken back of her
chair, she laughed low and exultantly.

"We did not come here for recriminations, Madame Remond. We came, as I
explained just now, to hear the story you told Una."

"_Oui_, monsieur; but your friend there will be sorry when he hears it.
In fact, his Una wished him never to know it," madame said, maliciously.

"I have no doubt it was something very horrible, but doubtless it
was an untruth. We wish to hear and judge for ourselves," was her
opponent's undaunted reply.

She glared at him, and muttered something uncomplimentary beneath her
breath, but he continued, coolly:

"Go on and tell us, please. We do not wish to detain your _estimable_
husband much longer from his amiable bride!"

"Very well, then, since you will have it, here is Una's history in a
nutshell: She is a child of shame."

"You told me that once before; also, that she was your child, but I did
not believe you," answered Carmontelle.

She glared at him angrily, and said:

"Well, part of it was untrue, but so much the worse for the girl. She
might better be my child than the offspring of a slave with a taint of
African blood in her veins!"

"Woman!"

Eliot had sprung at her fiercely and clutched her white shoulder in a
grasp like steel. He shook her wildly in a tempest of rage.

"Unsay that lie!" he hissed, fiercely, with blazing eyes. Madame
turned, shrieking, to Carmontelle.

"Make him take his hands off me!" she panted, in terror. "Do not let
him kill me for telling the truth!"

It looked indeed as if her life was in danger, for Eliot's face worked
with fury, and sparks of fire seemed to flash from his angry eyes. It
was with the greatest difficulty that Carmontelle dragged him away from
the frightened woman and forced him into a seat.

"Be calm," he said. "Do not let her lies put you into a passion."

"Prove them lies if you can!" she screamed, losing her self-possession
in anger at his incredulity.

"I shall certainly endeavor to do so," he replied, calmly. "But go on;
finish the details of your story. So our Una was a slave's child, you
say? Who, then, was her father?"

"You force me to disgrace the dead!" she flashed. "Very well, then, it
was Monsieur Lorraine."

"Lorraine dead?" he exclaimed.

"Yes," sullenly.

"I remember Lorraine well. He was an exceedingly homely man. Una does
not resemble him in the least," said aggravating Carmontelle.

Flashing him a fiery glance, she retorted:

"No, but she resembles her mother, the beautiful quadroon whom he
gave me for a maid when I came to this house a bride the last year of
the war. Una was a pretty little infant then, and the young quadroon,
in a fit of jealous fury, told me all. Lorraine whipped her cruelly,
and in her rage she stabbed herself to death. The world says that I
made him jealous and drove him mad, but it is untrue. Remorse over the
quadroon's death drove him inside the walls of a lunatic asylum." She
paused a moment, then added: "I have told you now the simple truth, the
same that I told the girl in Boston. She is the daughter of Monsieur
Lorraine and his beautiful slave, and was in infancy a slave herself,
until the failure of the Southern Confederacy freed her in common with
all the other slaves."

She laughed aloud at the white horror of Eliot Van Zandt's face as he
crouched upon a sofa at the further end of the room.

"A slave's child the bride of one of the proud, highly born Van Zandts!
I am well avenged!" she exclaimed, fiendishly.



CHAPTER XLV.


Carmontelle turned to his friend.

"Poor Una!" he said; "it is no wonder she fled in dismay, after hearing
such a tale of horror. Come, let us go. We have heard all that madame's
malignity can invent to torture two loving hearts, and the only task
that remains to us is to prove it false."

"Which you will never do!" she exclaimed, with triumphant malice.

"Time will prove," he retorted, as he led the agitated Van Zandt out of
the house, ignoring the ceremony of adieus to its mistress.

But his face grew very grave once they gained the darkness of the
street. To himself he said, in alarm:

"Can her tale be true? It sounded very plausible."

To Eliot he said:

"I shall put this affair in the hands of one who will sift it to the
bottom. Then, if Madame Remond has lied to us, she shall suffer for her
sin."

"Poor Una! my poor little Una! How she must have suffered, bearing this
bitter knowledge alone!" Eliot said, and a bursting sigh heaved his
tortured breast.

"She was a wise little girl, at all events," Carmontelle answered,
gravely. "Of course, if madame's tale be true, there was no other way
proper for either, cruel as it seems to say it."

Eliot had no answer ready, but in his heart he knew that his friend
spoke truly. Better, far better, that he and Una should suffer than
to throw the blighting disgrace of his wife's parentage upon unborn
descendants of the proud name of Van Zandt.

He could hardly share the incredulity of Carmontelle. Madame's story
had been so plausible it had shaken his doubts. Now, indeed, it seemed
to him that all hope was over. He and Una were indeed parted forever.

He went back to the Magnolias with his friend, and excusing himself
from all society, went up to his room alone. He spent some time leaning
from the window, his sad gaze roving over the moonlit city, thinking
of Una, his lost bride, so near him that an hour's rapid walking would
have borne him to her side, but sundered so widely apart from him by
sorrow.

There came to him in the stillness a memory of the song he had sung to
her so often, and which she had loved so well, "The Two Little Lives."
How well it fitted now!

    "Ah! for the morrow bringeth such sorrow,
       Captured the lark was, and life grew dim;
     There, too, the daisy torn from the way-side,
       Prisoned and dying wept for him
     Once more the lark sung; fainter his voice grew;
       Her little song was hushed and o'er;
     Two little lives gone out of the sunshine,
       Out of this bright world for evermore."

"Poor little daisy!" Eliot sighed; then, bitterly, "Ah, if we had but
died in prison that time, how blessed we should have been--never having
this cruel knowledge to break our hearts!"

He flung himself down on the bed and tried to sleep. A disturbed
slumber, mixed with frightful dreams, came to him. His head was hot,
and his thirst was excessive. He rose several times and groped his way
to the ice-pitcher, drinking greedily, until at last he had drained it
all. In the morning they found him there delirious.

The old doctor shook his head.

"Brain fever!" he said. "He has had some terrible shock, I think, from
the symptoms. I shall send you a trained hospital nurse, Carmontelle,
for there must be careful nursing here if we bring the poor fellow out
alive."

The nurse came, and was duly installed in his position, aided and
abetted by Maud and Edith.

Carmontelle, after a day or two, stole away from the house long enough
to consult his family lawyer on the subject of ferreting to the bottom
the story the wicked Mme. Remond had told him of Una's birth.

At an early period of the narration of his story the lawyer became
visibly excited.

"Go on. Tell me everything," he said, nervously, and Carmontelle obeyed.

When he had finished, Mr. Frayser cried out, eagerly:

"Upon my soul, Carmontelle, I believe the good Lord himself has sent
you to me. You know I was Lorraine's lawyer?"

"I did not know it," was the answer.

"Yes," said Mr. Frayser; "and my client died a few months ago, in an
insane asylum."

"So I was told by Madame Lorraine--or, as I should perhaps say, Remond."

"Yes, she married that wretch some time ago, and they came on here
after Lorraine's death, to look after his property."

"Yes," said Carmontelle, rather indifferently. He was not much
interested in the dead man's property.

"Lorraine was immensely rich, you know," continued Frayser. "Madame
thought she would step into the money without let or hinderance. She
wanted to sell all the property in New Orleans and get away with the
spoils."

"Yes," absently.

The little lawyer smiled.

"Monsieur, you don't look much interested," he said; "but listen:
Monsieur Lorraine left a box of private papers in my safe when he first
employed me as his lawyer, at the time of his marriage to the actress.
When I examined these papers, after his death, I found that the greater
part of his wealth did not belong to him, but was held in trust for
another person."

"Another person!" Carmontelle echoed, brightening up with sudden
curiosity.

"A little child," continued Frayser, his little black eyes twinkling
with fun at Carmontelle's eagerness.

"Go on, go on."

"It seems that Lorraine had an only sister who was married during the
war to a very wealthy man, a colonel--_mon Dieu_! Carmontelle, what a
coincidence! it was your own name--he was a Colonel Carmontelle!"

"And lived in Alabama--and was killed in battle just before the close
of the war. He was my cousin!" exclaimed Carmontelle, excitedly.

"The same," replied the lawyer. "Well, his death was such a shock to
his young wife that, when her little one was born, a month later, she
died--of heart-break, or, at least, so say the letters of her friends,
that were written from Alabama to summon him to come for the little
orphan heiress."

"Una!" exclaimed Carmontelle, radiantly.

"Most likely," said the lawyer, smiling. "But permit me to go on with
my prosaic story. According to these private papers, some of which are
in the form of memorandums, Lorraine brought the babe to New Orleans
with its negro nurse, and very soon afterward married, more for the
child's sake than his own, and went to housekeeping on Esplanade
Street."

"All is clear as day. Thank the good God, Una's stainless parentage is
established, and I will go this day and bring her to the side of her
suffering husband," Carmontelle exclaimed, joyously.

"I think you may safely do so," smiled the delighted lawyer. "But I
have still more to tell you. The physician in charge at the asylum
where Lorraine died wrote to me to come and make preparations for
his burial. I went and heard a strange story. Lorraine, in his last
illness, had recovered his reason and memory. He had dictated and
signed a paper to be given to me. You shall read it yourself."

He brought out from his desk the paper, and Carmontelle eagerly ran
over the contents.

Briefly, it was to the effect that Lorraine, just previous to the
insanity that had overtaken him, had found out that his wife was
false to him, and that she had married him only for the money which
she believed to be his own. Realizing suddenly that he had made no
arrangements by which his little niece would receive her inheritance,
should he be suddenly stricken by death, and fearful of Mme. Lorraine's
treachery in the matter, he had executed a will in which he left to the
little Mary Carmontelle the whole of his own small patrimony, together
with the wealth of her dead father. He had hidden the will in the
library, intending to place it in Frayser's care, but his mind had
suddenly gone wrong with the stress of trouble, and his removal by his
wife to an insane asylum had put a sudden end to everything.

"Madame knows all this?" Carmontelle queried, looking up from the paper.

"Yes; for I confronted her with it when she came to me to settle up the
property. She was as bold as brass, and declared that the child had
died in infancy. I made a search in the library, all the same, for the
missing will, but it could not be found. Doubtless that wicked woman
has destroyed it. I would not take her word that the little heiress was
dead, as she could offer no proof at all except the word of that grim
maid-servant of hers, so I have been advertising in a number of papers
for the child or young lady, as she is now, if living. You will see
from that paper that I am appointed her guardian until her marriage."

"She has been married nearly six years. Dear little Una! she is my
cousin, and the name I gave her when I adopted her as my daughter was
really her own. It is the oddest thing, too, that the nuns at the
convent baptized her Marie, her own name, but in the French form. Fact
is certainly stranger than fiction!" exclaimed Maud's husband, in
wonder and delight.

"It is wonderful, certainly," agreed Frayser, "and your visit to me
to-day is one of the most wonderful things about it. I was beginning to
give up all hope of finding the missing heiress, and Mme. Remond and
her rascally husband were pressing me so furiously that I was beginning
to fear I must make some concessions to them. But now all is made
plain, and I can lay my hand on Lorraine's niece and heiress and oust
her enemy from the place she has usurped so long. But I must tell you
one thing, unless that missing will can be found, the ex-actress will
make us trouble yet over Mrs. Van Zandt's inheritance."

"Never mind about the will now. What is money when it lies in our power
to reunite the crushed hearts of that long-parted husband and wife. Let
us get into my carriage and go and fetch Una away from her convent to
the side of her sick husband!" cried Carmontelle.

"Agreed with all my heart!" answered Frayser.



CHAPTER XLVI.


Carmontelle found, as once before, his old acquaintance with the mother
superior at the convent of good avail in securing admittance. The good
woman met him in some wonder, and bowed stiffly to the little lawyer,
who was looking about him in a good deal of curiosity.

"What is the meaning of this visit?" she inquired, with calm dignity,
although perfectly certain that it related to Una.

She was not mistaken, for he immediately asked for her, and was told
that Una would receive no one.

"She is constantly engaged in devotion, fitting herself to retire
forever from the world."

"She will have to let the devotions go, and return to the world,"
Carmontelle answered, bluntly.

"Monsieur!" reproachfully.

"I mean what I say," he replied, earnestly. "I have to-day made
discoveries that prove her the daughter of honorable parents--also
heiress to a large fortune. There is nothing now to prevent her return
to the world and to her husband, who has suffered so much from their
separation."

Madame, the superior, was unaffectedly happy at hearing this news.

"Thank _le bon Dieu_ that it is so!" she exclaimed.

"Oh, how the poor little one has suffered, believing the falsehood of
wicked Madame Lorraine."

She went hurriedly to seek Una with the joyful tidings, but it was some
time before she returned.

In truth, Una had been almost overcome by the shock of joy after the
long night of sorrow and despair.

"I am not the child of infamy! The blood that flows through my veins is
noble and untainted! Heaven, I thank Thee!" cried the tortured girl,
falling down upon her knees and hiding her face in her hands as she
leaned forward upon her low cot bed.

To the good nun's announcement that she was an heiress, she had paid no
attention, everything else being swallowed up in the glad news that her
birth was honorable.

After the sorrow and despair she had experienced such a revulsion of
feeling, such intense happiness rushed over her that her senses for a
moment succumbed to the shock, and the nun, bending forward to look at
her, presently found she had quietly fainted.

The application of a little cold water soon revived her, and the mother
superior exclaimed, cheerfully:

"Oh, fy! my dear, I did not know that you would take my good news so
ill, or I would have broken it to you more carefully."

"Tell me more. What is my name? Who are my kinspeople, and why was I
left so long to the cruel mercy of Madame Lorraine?" exclaimed Una,
eagerly.

"Come with me. Our old friend, Pierre Carmontelle, is down-stairs. He
will tell you all."

"Monsieur Carmontelle! He has always been my friend," cried the girl,
thinking remorsefully of the way she had snubbed him that day in Boston
when he had followed her to the banker's gate, frightened because she
feared he would betray her to Eliot.

Now she ran joyfully to his presence, and he started in surprise at
her wondrous beauty that shone star-like from its setting of simple
convent black.

"Heavens, Una! how lovely you have grown!" he exclaimed, gayly. "I may
take the privilege of praising you, although you are a married woman,
since you are my kinswoman by two distinct ties."

"Your kinswoman!" the girl echoed, amazedly, and he explained,
laughingly:

"You are my cousin's daughter for one thing, and for the other you are
my sister-in-law."

"What can you mean?"

"I married Maud Van Zandt two weeks ago," he replied.

The warm color came rushing into Una's pale cheeks.

"Oh!" she cried, "how happy you make me. And dear Maud--is she here?"

"She is at my home, the Magnolias. Have you any one else to ask about,
_belle cousine_?" chaffingly.

"E--dith?" falteringly, and blushing up to her eyes.

"Edith is at the Magnolias, too. Ah, I see your eyes asking me about
some one else. No wonder you are ashamed to speak his name after the
shameful way you have treated him. Well, I will be generous, Mrs. Van
Zandt. Eliot--ah! now I see how you can blush--is also at my home,
and presently I am going to take another guest to the Magnolias--even
yourself."

"Not--not until you tell me all!" the girl faltered, trembling with
such happiness that she could scarcely speak.

So, then and there he told her all the story of Mme. Lorraine's
treachery and cupidity--told her everything, except the story of
Eliot's illness that might possibly terminate fatally, and so wreck the
happy ending of their checkered love story.

When he had finished the story, with the aid of the little lawyer, who
was charmed with the beauty of the young heiress, he said, kindly:

"Will you come with me to the Magnolias, now, Una?"

She looked radiantly at the nun, who answered, with genuine happiness:

"Of course she will, monsieur, as soon as she retires to her room and
assumes her worldly garb. I am sorry to lose our sweet Una, but not
selfish enough to regret her good fortune that has made it possible for
her to be happy once more in the world. I see plainly that Heaven did
not intend for her to be a nun."

Father Quentin began to believe this, too, when she withdrew to
acquaint him with the startling news, and when Una came down, after
laying off her convent dress forever, in hat and cloak, to depart from
Le Bon Berger, the old priest's aged hands were laid solemnly on her
golden head a moment, and his quavering old voice tenderly blessed her
and commended her to the care of Heaven.

All the nuns and convent pupils were assembled to bid her adieu, and
followed by their tears and blessings, Una went away with Carmontelle,
her new-found kinsman, to the Magnolias.



CHAPTER XLVII.


No one met them in the library, to which he conducted Una. Maud and
Edith were upstairs in close attendance upon Eliot. Carmontelle saw
that the girl was trembling with nervous excitement, and brought her a
sedative to drink.

"No one knows anything yet?" she asked him.

"No; and I am going to let you rest and recover yourself first, before
I bring Maud and Edith to you; and Eliot you shall see last of all."

He left her waiting there, and went upstairs to break the news to his
young wife and Edith. Eliot was still delirious, and carefully watched
by his attentive nurse. He beckoned the girls into another room, and
told them everything, then stood smiling at their tears of joy.

"Eliot will get well now with his wife come home to him," he said. "So
run down to the library like good girls now, and kiss your sister Una,
and break the news of Eliot's illness to her as gently as you can."

They needed no second bidding, but flew softly to the library, and
Una soon found herself in danger of being smothered in the energetic
clasp of four round white arms, while dual tears and kisses fell on her
golden head and lovely face.

Una was glad, more glad than words could tell, at this happy meeting,
but when the first joy was past, her dark eyes wandered eagerly toward
the door. The two sisters understood.

"You are looking for Eliot, dear," said Maud. "He can not come to you
now, dear. You see, the poor boy is sick--he has had such trouble over
losing you, Una--but now he will get well. You shall help us to nurse
him back to health."

And so, in gentle tones, they broke to her the news of Eliot's illness,
and presently carried her off with them to look at him where he lay,
with burning eyes and crimson face, among his pillows. But he did not
recognize the fair young wife who looked at him with eyes full of love
and grief, and pressed passionate lips on his hot brow. He only smiled
vacantly, and turning from her, began to talk in his restless delirium,
strange, disconnected, meaningless phrases that struck dismay to Una's
heart, and chilled the blood in her young veins.

"He will never get well; he will die, my love, my darling, my husband!"
she cried out, shrilly, in sudden terror and despair.

And Eliot turned his heavy head toward her, as if some chord of memory
had been struck by her voice, and began to babble of other things--of
the dark days of imprisonment in the cellar-room of the house on
Esplanade Street, of the beloved little companion who had shared
those horrors, and whose life he had saved by that desperate deed of
self-sacrifice.

She stood listening with dark, dilated eyes, hearing for the first time
how her life had been saved that night.

Carmontelle was standing close by her side.

She turned her dark, amazed, tear-wet eyes on his face, and murmured
hoarsely:

"Is it truth, or the ravings of fever and delirium?"

"It is truth," he answered; and, with a wild, remorseful cry, Una ran
out of the room.

He followed her into the next apartment. She had thrown herself into a
chair, and was sobbing wildly.

"Una, why do you take it so hard?" he expostulated. "Surely, no wife
could object to such devoted love!"

She looked up at him with agonized entreaty in her eyes.

"Was it love, or--pity?" she cried. "I--I thought--Sylvie Van Zandt
told me so--that he loved Ida Hayes before he ever met me, and would
have married her but for that--trouble--that forced him to make me his
wife."

"It was a fiendish falsehood!" declared Carmontelle, emphatically.
"Eliot never thought of Ida Hayes. He loved you from the first moment
he saw you."

"Ignorant Little Nobody as I was?" she exclaimed, in wonder.

"Yes; ignorant Little Nobody that you were!" he replied, smiling. "He
told me before he married you how glad he was that a strange fate had
given you to his keeping. You were destined for my bride, you know,
and Van Zandt, being poor, would not tell his love until that happy
accident gave you to his arms."

She exclaimed remorsefully:

"Oh, what a wretch I was to believe Sylvie and doubt my noble husband!
I thought, when I ran away, that he would get a divorce and marry Ida.
But he loved me all the time, my noble darling! Oh, if I had known
before that it was his precious life-current he gave me to drink,
that time when we both believed I was dying, all would have been so
different. I could not then have doubted his fidelity. No wonder I
could not keep from loving him all the time, when it was his own life
flowing in my veins and keeping me faithful to my husband."

"Do not blame yourself for doubting him; it was but natural, my dear,"
said her cousin. "Mrs. Bryant Van Zandt is the only one to blame. She
hated you because you spoiled her match-making. But now you will have
your revenge on that treacherous doll. You will be much richer than she
is, and can queen it over Sylvie and Ida in royal fashion."

She smiled through her tears, but answered:

"I do not care for the money, only to make dear Eliot rich. Oh, cousin,
do you think he will get well? Heaven would not be so cruel as to take
him from me now!"

"I trust, indeed, that he will be spared to us," Carmontelle answered,
evasively, for he was secretly alarmed at Eliot's condition.

But he would not communicate his fears to the alarmed wife and sisters,
only enjoined them to be careful and watchful over Eliot. Indeed,
he himself often shared the vigils of the nurse, who was a rather
old-looking man, and inclined to resent the aid he received from the
family, declaring that he could care for his patient better alone.

Una had taken a distaste to the nurse from the first, and her
unaccountable aversion increased as Eliot grew no better with the
lapse of days, and showed no sign of recognition of the dear ones who
surrounded him.

Carmontelle spoke to the doctor about the cross nurse, but he only
laughed, and said that nurses were always jealous of interference with
their patients, and that the man was splendid in his vocation; so Una
tried to dismiss her antipathy to him as unjust and unfounded.

But one night the physician declared that he saw a change in his
patient--a crisis was approaching, and he hoped the change would be for
the better. He left, promising to return at midnight, and enjoining
the utmost quiet and care in the sick-room, so that Eliot might not be
aroused from the deep slumber into which he had fallen.

When he had gone, Johnson, the nurse, declared that he must have the
sick-room alone with his patient.

"The crisis is all-important," he said. "When he awakens it will be
to life or death, and in spite of Doctor Pomeroy's flattering words,
I fear it will be death. When he wakes, I must be alone with him that
he may not be excited and frightened by your anxious faces. I hope you
will all go to your rooms and rest. I will call each one immediately
upon the slightest change in the patient."

They all promised, but Una's pledge was most reluctant. She looked
pleadingly at Johnson, and he returned her gaze sullenly, as it seemed
to her, through the goggle glasses he wore.

She went to her own room, just a little lower down the hall, and sat
down at the window, consumed with suspense and restlessness. The hours
passed slowly, drearily, and at last she could bear the torture of her
thoughts no longer.

"I will go to the room next to Eliot's and wait. No one will see or
hear me, and it can do no harm," she thought.

Wrapping a dark shawl about her shoulders, for the midnight hour was
chilly, Una glided like a spirit along the dark corridor until she
gained the little ante-chamber next to the sick-room. The outer door
was ajar, and also the one that opened into Eliot's room. The anxious
young wife moved softly across the soundless carpet and peered around
the door.

Then her shriek of terror, fear, and agony rang shrilly through the
house.



CHAPTER XLVIII.


That agonized shriek brought Pierre Carmontelle rushing from his
room, followed by Maud, while Edith came from another direction, and
men-servants and maid-servants came flying up the stairs, all with one
thought in their minds. The sufferer was dead, and that bitter cry had
come from the lips of the bereaved young wife.

But when they rushed into the room, a tragic scene greeted their eyes.

Una, in the center of the floor, was struggling heroically with a
man, who was holding a pillow over her face and head, and on the
floor lay a gray wig and beard and goggle glasses. Una's assailant
was Louis Remond. One fierce blow from Carmontelle's fist knocked the
villain down, and before he could rise, an emphatic kick temporarily
relieved him of consciousness. Two men-servants, comprehending the
scene with uncommon rapidity, dragged the wretch out into the corridor
and speedily bound him hand and foot. In the meantime, Una, from the
bedside to which she had instantly flown, was explaining, through
hushed sobs:

"I peeped in at the door, and Johnson was holding a pillow down over
Eliot's face. I screamed, and he rushed at me with the pillow, and
would have smothered me in another instant but for your entrance."

"The hound!" Carmontelle said, fiercely; then, kicking the disguises
into view, he said: "These must have been knocked off in the scuffle.
Johnson was Louis Remond in disguise."

Una shuddered, then turned toward the bed. She stifled a cry of
unutterable joy.

Eliot was unharmed, for at that instant he opened his eyes naturally,
like one awaking from a long sleep, and their calm, steady gaze rested
on that lovely, agitated face with its dark, loving eyes and the golden
hair shadowing the wan temples.

"Una, darling!" he said, not as one surprised or excited, but gently
and quietly, as one who has been very sick always accepts even the
strangest things as a matter of course.

The crisis had passed, and Eliot and Una had escaped the malignancy of
the two enemies who sought their lives, for a plot was unearthed that
night that led to the conviction of Mme. Remond as well as her husband.

She was found in the house, in the guise of a female servant, and had
arranged to take Una's life that night, by means of poison in her
drinking-water, while Remond, who had bribed the hospital nurse, and so
usurped his place, was to smother Eliot with a pillow.

Fortunately, the cruel conspiracy was discovered and averted, and the
two conspirators were soon tried, convicted, and sentenced to a long
term in the penitentiary. Madame died before her term expired, but
Remond escaped from prison and made his way out of the country, never
returning to it, through fear of apprehension.

At Mme. Remond's trial, when she found that everything was going
against her, she sullenly confessed that she lied when she tried to
palm off upon Una the story that she was of shameful parentage.

"I thought, when I married Lorraine, that all the money was his, and I
hated him and the heiress, too, when I found out the real truth. I only
wish I had killed her when she was a baby, then all this trouble had
been avoided," she said, with vindictive frankness.

Eliot convalesced very fast, to the great delight of Una and the
family, and one day, when the little lawyer had fretted over the
missing will of M. Lorraine, she said to her husband:

"Tell me what a legal document looks like?"

He described it to her, and her eyes grew bright with excitement.

"Eliot, you remember the great dictionary in which you showed me the
definition of Friend, that first night we met? Well, there was just
such a paper in that book, and if it has escaped madame's search, is
there yet, and may prove to be the missing will."

Her surmise was correct, and the lawyer was very happy when he got the
legal document into his hands. It proved Una, beyond a doubt, Colonel
Carmontelle's daughter, and the richest heiress in New Orleans.

"But you loved me, Eliot, when I was only Little Nobody. I shall always
be prouder of that, darling, than of my wealth," said happy Una.


THE END.



THE HART SERIES

  Laura Jean Libbey
  Charlotte M. Braeme
  Miss Caroline Hart
  Barbara Howard
  Lucy Randall Comfort
  Mrs. E. Burke Collins
  Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller
  Mary E. Bryan
  Marie Corelli

Was there ever a galaxy of names representing such authors offered to
the public before?

Masters all of writing stories that arouse the emotions, in sentiment,
passion and love, their books excel any that have ever been written.

NOW READY


  1--Kidnapped at the Altar, Laura Jean Libbey.
  2--Gladiola's Two Lovers, Laura Jean Libbey.
  3--Lil, the Dancing Girl, Caroline Hart.
  5--The Woman Who Came Between, Caroline Hart.
  6--Aleta's Terrible Secret, Laura Jean Libbey.
  7--For Love or Honor, Caroline Hart.
  8--The Romance of Enola, Laura Jean Libbey.
  9--A Handsome Engineer's Flirtation, Laura J. Libbey.
  10--A Little Princess, Caroline Hart.
  11--Was She Sweetheart or Wife, Laura Jean Libbey.
  12--Nameless Bess, Caroline Hart.
  13--Della's Handsome Lover, Laura Jean Libbey.
  14--That Awful Scar, Caroline Hart.
  15--Flora Garland's Courtship, Laura Jean Libbey.
  16--Love's Rugged Path, Caroline Hart.
  17--My Sweetheart Idabell, Laura Jean Libbey.
  18--Married at Sight, Caroline Hart.
  19--Pretty Madcap Dorothy, Laura Jean Libbey.
  20--Her Right to Love, Caroline Hart.
  21--The Loan of a Lover, Laura Jean Libbey.
  22--The Game of Love, Caroline Hart.
  23--A Fatal Elopement, Laura Jean Libbey.
  24--Vendetta, Marie Corelli.
  25--The Girl He Forsook, Laura Jean Libbey.
  26--Redeemed by Love, Caroline Hart.
  28--A Wasted Love, Caroline Hart.
  29--A Dangerous Flirtation, Laura Jean Libbey.
  30--A Haunted Life, Caroline Hart.
  31--Garnetta, the Silver King's Daughter, L. J. Libbey.
  32--A Romance of Two Worlds, Marie Corelli.
  34--Her Ransom, Charles Garvice.
  36--A Hidden Terror, Caroline Hart.
  37--Flora Temple, Laura Jean Libbey.
  38--Claribel's Love Story, Charlotte M. Braeme.
  39--Pretty Rose Hall, Laura Jean Libbey.
  40--The Mystery of Suicide Place, Mrs. Alex. Miller.
  41--Cora, the Pet of the Regiment, Laura Jean Libbey.
  42--The Vengeance of Love, Caroline Hart.
  43--Jolly Sally Pendleton, Laura Jean Libbey.
  44--A Bitter Reckoning, Mrs. E. Burke Collins.
  45--Kathleen's Diamonds, Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller.
  46--Angela's Lover, Caroline Hart.
  47--Lancaster's Choice, Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller.
  48--The Madness of Love, Caroline Hart.
  49--Little Sweetheart, Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller.
  50--A Working Girl's Honor, Caroline Hart.
  51--The Mystery of Colde Fell, Charlotte M. Braeme.
  52--The Rival Heiresses, Caroline Hart.
  53--Little Nobody, Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller.
  54--Her Husband's Ghost, Mary E. Bryan.
  55--Sold for Gold, Mrs. E. Burke Collins.
  56--Her Husband's Secret, Lucy Randall Comfort.
  57--A Passionate Love, Barbara Howard.
  58--From Want to Wealth, Caroline Hart.
  59--Loved You Better Than You Knew, Mrs. A. Miller.
  60--Irene's Vow, Charlotte M. Braeme.
  61--She Loved Not Wisely, Caroline Hart.
  62--Molly's Treachery, Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller.
  63--Was It Wrong? Barbara Howard.
  64--The Midnight Marriage, Mrs. Sumner Hayden.
  65--Ailsa, Wenona Gilman.
  66--Her Dark Inheritance, Mrs. E. Burke Collins.
  67--Viola's Vanity, Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller.
  68--The Ghost of the Hurricane Hills, Mary E. Bryan.
  69--A Woman Wronged, Caroline Hart.
  70--Was She His Lawful Wife? Barbara Howard.
  71--Val, the Tomboy, Wenona Gilman.
  72--The Richmond Secret, Mrs. E. Burke Collins.
  73--Edna's Vow, Charlotte M. Stanley.
  74--Heart's of Fire, Caroline Hart.
  75--St. Elmo, Augusta J. Evans.
  76--Nobody's Wife, Caroline Hart.
  77--Ishmael, Mrs. E. D. E. N. Southworth.
  78--Self-Raised, Mrs. E. D. E. N. Southworth.
  79--Pretty Little Rosebud, Barbara Howard.
  80--Inez, Augusta J. Evans.
  81--The Girl Wife, Mrs. Sumner Hayden.
  82--Dora Thorne, Charlotte M. Braeme.
  83--Followed by Fate, Lucy Randall Comfort.
  84--India, or the Pearl of Pearl River, Southworth.
  85--Mad Kingsley's Heir, Mrs. E. Burke Collins.
  86--The Missing Bride, Mrs. E. D. E. N. Southworth.
  87--Wicked Sir Dare, Charles Garvice.
  88--Daintie's Cruel Rivals, Mrs. Alex. McV. Miller.
  89--Lillian's Vow, Caroline Hart.
  90--Miss Estcourt, Charles Garvice.
  91--Beulah, Augusta J. Evans.
  92--Daphane's Fate, Mrs. E. Burke Collins.
  93--Wormwood, Marie Corelli.
  94--Nellie, Charles Garvice.
  95--His Legal Wife, Mary E. Bryan.
  96--Macaria, Augusta J. Evans.
  97--Lost and Found, Charlotte M. Stanley.
  98--The Curse of Clifton, Mrs. Southworth.
  99--That Strange Girl, Charles Garvice.
  100--The Lovers at Storm Castle, Mrs. M. A. Collins.
  101--Margerie's Mistake, Lucy Randall Comfort.
  102--The Curse of Pocahontas, Wenona Gilman.
  103--My Love Kitty, Charles Garvice.
  104--His Fairy Queen, Elizabeth Stiles.
  105--From Worse than Death, Caroline Hart.
  106--Audrey Fane's Love, Mrs. E. Burke Collins.
  107--Thorns and Orange Blossoms, Charlotte Braeme.
  108--Ethel Dreeme, Frank Corey.
  109--Three Girls, Mary E. Bryan.
  110--A Strange Marriage, Caroline Hart.
  111--Violet, Charles Garvice.
  112--The Ghost of the Power, Mrs. Sumner Hayden.
  113--Baptised with a Curse, Edith Stewart Drewry.
  114--A Tragic Blunder, Mrs. H. Lovett Cameron.
  115--The Secret of Her Life, Edward Jenkins.
  116--My Guardian, Ada Cambridge.
  117--A Last Love, Georges Ohnet.
  118--His Angel, Henry Herman.
  119--Pretty Miss Bellew, Theo. Gift.
  120--Blind Love, Wilkie Collins.
  121--A Life's Mistake, Mrs. H. Lovett Cameron.
  122--Won By Waiting, Edna Lyall.
  123--Passion's Slave, King.
  124--Under Currents, Duchess.
  125--False Vow, Braeme.
  126--The Belle of Lynne, Braeme.
  127--Lord Lynne's Choice, Braeme.
  128--Blossom and Fruit, Braeme.
  129--Weaker Than a Woman, Braeme.
  130--Tempest and Sunshine, Mary J. Holmes.
  131--Lady Muriel's Secret, Braeme.
  132--A Mad Love, Braeme.

The Hart Series books are for sale everywhere, or they will be sent by
mail, postage paid, for 30 cents a copy by the publisher; 4 copies for
$1.00. Postage stamps taken the same as money.


  THE ARTHUR WESTBROOK COMPANY       Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.A.



Transcriber's Notes:


Added table of contents.

Italics are represented with _underscores_.

Several instances of the word "eat" being used where "ate" would seem
more appropriate have been retained from the original.

Page 14, changed "beauiful" to "beautiful."

Page 59, added missing quote before "_Ciel_!"

Page 69, changed "thinkng" to "thinking."

Page 73, changed "and" to "an" in "chirped an 'oh!'"

Page 83, changed "soemthing" to "something" ("something very strange").

Page 92, corrected end punctuation from period to question mark and
added missing quote after "opening of the hidden door."

Page 95, changed "sight" to "sigh" in "sigh of dismay."

Page 126, corrected "Eilot" to "Eliot" in first line of chapter XXVIII.

Page 130, corrected "he" to "she" in "under which she had chafed."

Page 132, corrected "ready" to "read" in "read her whole chapters."

Page 133, removed duplicate "the" from "the the dark eyes only looked."

Page 135, changed "more sense that" to "more sense than."

Page 136, changed "went down-staris" to "went down-stairs."

Page 146, removed extraneous period after "too fine for Eliot's wife."

Page 148, added missing period after "half-frightened tone."

Back cover advertisement, normalized punctuation. Corrected "Barabara"
to "Barbara" in #57. Corrected "Gorvice" to "Garvice" in #90.





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